Skip to main content
Internet Archive's 25th Anniversary Logo

Full text of "Moltke, a biographical and critical study"

See other formats




- ^ 

'•^okmmi^ ^o-mm\ii^ <fji3DNv-soi^ "^mim 




fro VJJ 

"<rii3DNvsoi^ %a3AiNn-3WV^ %Ojiivjjo^ '^ojnv 








'^^Aavaani'^ %Aavys 

U ■ M il SO 





^<!/OJIlVJJO^ %0JITVDJO^ %]3DNVS01^ 




















I^tV)! sm-— k 

.avaaii-^^ '^^^Aiivaair^'*^ 

* ^>^ SC3 







^/5il3A[Nn'3WV^ ^<!/0JllVD'JO^ '^OJIIVDJO'^ 


^, t/^^v-kf^ :^\/CN% '^N/r\; 

%a3AiNn-3W^^ "^^^JAHvaaiH^^ "^^OAavaain^ 








'^^Aavaan# ^J'iijowsoi^ 









%a3AINI13ViV^ ^OdlTVJJO'^ ^<i/0jnV3J0'^ 





§ J^ x^ 

>; '= 


^OFCAllFOff^ ^OFCAllFOff^^ 






^ . ;''r^:^3^ 

E". ' 



'^'fe?' •■■/"■ 











residesqne movebifc 
Tullus in anna viros, et jam desueta triamphis 


Ei'uet ille Argos, Agaoiemnoniasque Mycenas, 
Ipsumque iEacidem, genus armipotentis Aohilli, 
Ultus aTos Trojss, templa et temerata Minervas. 







[All rijhls reserved'] 


ST. John's house, clekkenwell hoad, e.c. 



In the presen t edition of this book I have re- 
moved misprints and slips of the pen ; and I have 
corrected SiUj errors, discovered by myself or indi- 
cated by well-informed person s. These emenda- 
tions are few, and do not, in the slightest degree, 
affect my estimate of Moltke, or the tenor and 
import of my narrative. The positions I have taken, 
to use a military phrase, have been severely recon- 
noitred, and even assailed ; but I hope I have 
maintained them, and I believe them to be 
impregnable. I have added a few notes in the 
Appendix, which may increase their strength. 

I shall not publish the commendations bestowed 
on this work, in letters, from two eminent foreign 
writers, and from an English military critic, easily 
the first of his craft since the death of General 
Hamley. But my acknowledgments are due to 
many contributors in quarterly, weekly, and daily 
journals, for comments, often too eulogistic, and 
always candid and intelligent. My Edinhun/h 
Bevieiver meant mischief ; but — remarkable praise 
on the part of an enthusiastic Moltkeite — he 
has described me "as a most able advocatus 


Diaboli ; " and he has not the slightest doubt that 
" we are furnished with every single argument 
against Yon Moltke's reputation as a commander." 
I regret that I cannot return the compliment, and 
greet him as an able advocatus Dei; as I have 
pointed out in a note, he has, with extraordinary 
awkwardness, overthrown an idol which he thinks 
more worthy of admiration than Napoleon. As to 
my rare hostile critics, I might pass them over ; their 
speech bewrayeth them. They are all, or nearly all, 
soldiers, very possibly good soldiers ; but they are 
not versed in the higher parts of war, or trained to 
deal with masses of conflicting testimony, the dis- 
cipline, beyond everything else, required in the 
military historian ; and they are frantic that a mere 
feldn should invade the sacred domain of pipe- 
clay. I have noticed some of their remarks, but 
persons of sense and experience know the value of 
the evidence of petty experts in what is essentially 
a judicial inquiry. One gem of purest ray serene 
I must save from the dark unfathomed caves of the 
United Service Magazine. One of its writers has 
gravely argued that, because a Colonel Mitchell 
made a silly estimate of Napoleon, therefore, and 
for that reason, my estimate of Moltke must be 
ridiculous. Since the Aristotelian Freshman 
proved a chestnut horse to be a horse chestnut, 
and vice versa, there has been no more exquisite 
morsel of logic. 

This book has been published a few months ago 
only, but Time has dealt with it, as it deals with 


everything. Macmabon has since gone, chivalrously 
forgiven by France for Sedan, and Miribel the 
rising Marcellus of her reformed army. Several 
works of Moltke have quite lately appeared, which 
illustrate the hatred of France, and the want of 
knowledge of men, which I have indicated as faults 
in his character. His "Tactical Problems" fur- 
nish additional proof of his immense professional 
skill and incessant industr}^, great qualities which, 
in his case, have in a large measure supplied the 
absence of the highest genius. I cannot read the 
works of Kunz and Hoenig in the originals* and 
translations of them do not, I understand, exist ; 
but, if I can judge from an exhaustive review, these 
commentators curiously confirm all that I have 
written as to Moltke's direction of the war of 1870, 
after Sedan, and as to his numerous mistakes and 
false calculations. 

William O'Connor Morris, 
August, 1894. 


Years will, doubtless, elapse before a complete 
biography of Moltke can be given to the world. It 
is impossible at present exactly to know the part 
lie had in the organization of the Prussian army, 
and even in the military operations of 1866-70-1 ; 
very little of his correspondence has seen the light, 
especially his correspondence with public men ; and 
his figure is still too near the eyes of the living to 
stand in the true perspective of history. But the 
work lie did, and his great achievements have been, 
to a considerable extent, ascertained ; his character 
and his career may be traced, if not in all their 
parts, in a fairly distinct outline ; and it may be 
advisable to attempt a short description of them, 
as a '* prenotion," in Bacon's phrase, of the more 
perfect picture reserved for the future. I have 
endeavoured in this study correctly to record what 
Moltke accomplished in the preparation of war, 
and in the direction of armies in the field, to form 
a just estimate of his exploits, and to portray the 
man in his real nature. I trust I have alike kept 
clear of extravagant eulogy — profuse and undis- 
cerning in this case too often — and of undeserved 

A 2 


detraction and censure. Of one part of this work 
I shall simply say this : In narrating the main 
events of the second phase of the war of 1870-1, I 
have given prominence to the extraordinary efforts 
of France, and to the remarkable deeds of her great 
soldier, Chanzy, for these passages of a grand page 
of history have been little noticed, and have been 
almost lost sight of, in the bewildering glare of 
German triumphs. 

Many of the authorities from which my text has 
been composed will be found in the notes contained 
in this volume. I have, however, subjoined a com- 
plete list, which may be of use to the general 
reader. Unfortunately I do not know the German 
language, and thus I have been unable to read some 
books which throw light on Moltke's career ; and 
in many instances I have been obliged to rely on 
translations. Nevertheless, I hope, in spite of 
these drawbacks, that I have not wholly failed to 
master my subject. 


For Moltke's Life axd nis Writings before 1870. 

1. Moltke, his life and character. Translated by Mary Herms. 
London: Osgood & Co., 1892. 

2. Letters of Field-Marshal Count Helmuth von Moltke to his 
mother and brothers. Translated by Clara Bell and Henry W. 
Fischer. 2 vols. London : Osgood & Co., 1891. 

3. Moltke's Letters on the East. Translated into French by 
Alfred Marchand. Paris : Libraire Fischbacher. 

, 4. The Russians in Bulgaria and Eumelia in 1828 and 1829. 


From the German of Baron von Moltkc. London : Murray, 

5. Moltke's Campaign of Italy in 1859. Translated into 
French. Paris ; J. Dumaine, 1862. 

6. Moltke's Letters on Kussia. Translated into French by 
Alfred Marchand. Paris: Libraire Gaudez et Fischbacher, 1877. 

7. Moltke's Remarks on the French Army, referred to in Le 
Marechal de Mollke. Par. xxx. Paris Libraire Moderne, 1888. 


The Organization and Condition of the Prussian and 
German Armies in 18G6-70. 

1. Analysis of the Organization of the Prussian Army. By 
Lieutenant Talbot. London: Triibner & Co., 1871. 

2. Eapports Militaires eciits de Berlin, 1866-1870. Par le 
Colonel Baron Stoffel. Paris : Gamier Freres, 1871. 

3. Note sur I'Organization de la Confederation de I'Allemagne 
du Nord. Wilhelmshoe, 1871. By Napoleon III. 

4. The Brain of an Army. By Spenser Wilkinson. London : 
Macmillan & Co., 1890. 

5. The Prussian Campaign of 1866, a Tactical Retrospect. 
Translated from the German. By Colonel Ouvry. London : 
Mitchell & Co. 

6. A Retrospect on the Tactical Retrospect. Same Translator 
and Publishers, 1871. 

7. The Prussian Infantry in 1869. Same Translator and 
Publishers, 1870. 

8. Letters on Artillery, Cavalry, and Infantry. By Prince 
Kraft Hohenlohe. Translated by Colonel Walford. 3 vols. 
London: Edward Stanford, 1888-1889. 

9. L'art de combattre TArmee Francaise. By Prince Frederick 
Charles. French Translation. Paris : E. Dentu, 1870. 


The War in Bohemia in 1866. 

1. The Campaign of 1866 in Germany. " The Prussian Staff 
History." Translated into English by Colonel von Wright and 
Captain Henry M. Hozier, London : 1872. 


2. Les Luttes de TAutriclie en 1866. The Austrian Staff 
History. Translated into French by Franz Croussc. 3 vols. 
Paris: J. Dumaine, 1870. 

3. Guerre de la Prusse et de I'ltalie centre I'Autriehe et la 
Confederation Germanique en 1866. Par Ferdinand Le Comte 
Colonel Federal Suisse. Lausanne. 2 vols. 1866. 

4. La Guerre de 1866. Par le Major Vandevelde. Paris : 
Charles Tanera, 1869. 

5. Gieat Campaigns. INIajor C. Adams. Edinburgh : Black- 
■\voods, 1877. This work includes an account of the war of 

6. Moltke on the Battle of Koniggratz. Translated from the 
German by Spenser Wilkinson. The United Service Mcujazine. 

7. Field-Marshal Count von Moltke. By General Viscount 
"Wolseley. The United Service Magazine, Oct. 1891. Part II. 

8. M. de Moltke. Par Charles Malo. Paris : Berger Levrault 
et Cie. 1891. 


The French Army in 1870. 

1. L'Armee Fran9aise en 1867. By General Trochu. Paris: 
Amyot, 1870. 

2. Les Forces Militaires de la France en 1870. Par le Comte 
de la Chapelle. Napoleon III. Paris: Amyot, 1872. 

3. Les Causes de nos Desastres. Attributed to Napoleon III. 
Bruxelles. J. Rozez, 1871. 

4. La Verite sur la Campagne de 1870. Par Fernand Giraudeau. 
Marseille, 1871. 

5. L' Ad ministration de I'Armee rran9aise. Paris : Henri 
Plon, 1870. 

6. Commission des Conferences Militaires. Paris: J. Dumaine, 
1869. See also Note Sur I'Organisation Militaire, and les 
Rapports du Colonel Stoffel, before referred to. 


The War of 1870-1. 

1. The Franco-German War, 1870-1. "The Prussian Staff 
History." Two parts. 1st part, 2 vols, ; 2ud part, 3 vols. 


Translated by Captain Clarke, from the German official account. 
London, 1874, 1883. 

2. The Franco-German War of 1870. By Field-Marshal 
Count Helmuth von Moltke. Translated by Clara Bell and 
Henry W. Fischer. 2 vols. London: Osgood & Co., 1831. 
The references in the text are to this edition. An edition cor- 
rected by Mr. A. Forbes has also been published. 

3. The War for the Rhine Frontier. By v. Riistow. Trans- 
lated by J. L. Ncedham. 3 vols. Edinburgh : Blackwoods, 

4. The French Campaign, 1870-1. By. A. Xieumann. Trans- 
lated by Colonel E. Newdigate. London : W. Mitchell & Co., 

5. The Operations of the Bavarian Army Corps, under General 
von der Tann. By Captain H. Helvig. Translated by Captain 
G. S. Schawbe. London : Henry S. King & Co., 1874. 

6. The Operations of the German Armies in France from Sedan 
to the end of the War. By W. Blume. Translated by Major 
E. M. Jones, London : Henry S. King & Co., 1872. 

7. The Operations of the South Army, in January and February, 
1871. By Count Wartensleben. Translated by Colonel von 
Wright. London : Henry S. King & Co., 1872. 

8. Histoire de la Guerre de 1870-1. Par le General Baron 
Ambert. Paris: H. Plon, 1873. 

9. Histoire de la Guerre de 1870. Par V. D. Paris: J. 
Dumaine, 1871. 

10. La Guerre de 1870. Bruxelles, 1871. 

1 1 . L'Armee du Ilhin. Par le Marechal Bazaine. Paris : 
H. Plon, 1872. 

12. Episodes de la Guerre de 1870. Par I'ex-Marc^chal Bazaine. 
Madrid : Gaspar, 1883. 

13. Sedan. Par le General de Wimpffen. Paris : Libraire 
Internationale, 1871. 

14. La Joum^e de Sedan. Par le General Ducrot. Paris : E. 
Dentu, 1873. 

15. La Campagne de 1870. Par un Officier de I'Armi^c du 
Ellin. Bruxelles. 

16. Armee de Metz. Par le General Doligny. Mihister, 


17. Operations et Marches du 5me Corps. Par le General de 
Failly. Bruxelles : A. M. Labeque. 

18. Metz Campagne et Negociations. Par un officier superieur 
de TArmee du Rhin. Paris: J. Dumaine, 1872. 

19. Rapport du General de Riviere. Paris: E. Dentu, 1873. 

20. Proces Bazaine. Paris : Le Moniteur Universel. 

21. The Campaign of Sedan. By George Hooper. London: 
George Bell & Sons, 1887. 

22. Decisive Battles since Waterloo. By'T. W. Knox. Xew 
York and London : Putnams Sons, 1887. 

23. The Great Battles of 1870 and the Blockade of Metz. By 
H. B. Franklyn. London : Triibner & Co., 1887. 

24. La Defense de Paris., Par le General Ducrot. Paris : E. 
Dentu, 1875. 4 vols. 

25. Le Siege de Paris. Par le Ge'neral Vinoy. Paris : A. 
Plon, 1872. 

26. Memoire sur la Defense de Paris. Par E. Viollet le Due. 
Paris : Vve. Morel et Cie., 1871. 

27. La Guerre en Province. Par Charles de Freycinet. Paris : 
Michel Levy, 1871. 

28. La Premiere Armee de la Loire. Par le General D'Aurelle 
de Paladines. 

29. La Deuxieme Armee de la Loire. Par le General Chanzy. 
Paris: H. Plon, 1871. 

30. Campagne de I'Armee du Nord. Par le General Faidherbe. 
Paris: E. Dentu, 1871. 

31. Enquete Parlementaire. See Bazaine sur la Guerre de 
1870 and General Ducrot's fourth volume. 

32. Fortification. By Major Clarke. London : Murray, 

33.. Le Marechal de Moltke, Organisateur et stratege. Par le 
General Lewal. Paris : L. Baudoin, 1891. 

34. Le Feld-Marechal de Moltke, Revue Militaire Suisse. Par 
Abel Veuglaise. 

35. Tactical Deductions from the War of 1870-1. By A. V. 
Bogulawski. Translated by Colonel Graham. London : Henry 
S. King & Co., 1872. 

36. The Campaign of 1870. Republished from the Times. 
London : Bentley, 1871. 


37. The Special Correspondence of the Times, the Daily Newii, 
and the Fall Mall Gazette. 


Different Woiiks not included in the above List, and 
Kelatinu to Military and General History. 

1. Commentaires de Napoleon Premier. Paris : Imprimerie 
Imperiale, 1867. 6 vols. 

2. Theorie de la Grande Guerre. Par le General de Clausewitz. 
Translated into French by Colonel de Vitry. Paris : L. Baudoin, 
1886. 4 vols. 

3. Strategic et Grande Tactique. Par le General Pierron. 
Paris: Berger Levrault et Cie., 1887. 2 vols. 

4. La Guerre Moderne. Par le General Derrecagaix. Paris : 
L. Baudoin et Cie., 1890. 2 vols. 

5. The Operations of War. By General Haiuley, Blackvvoods, 

6. War. By Colonel F. Maurice. London: Macmillan & Co., 

7. A History of Modern Europe. By C. A. Fyffe. London . 
Cassell& Co., 1889. 3 vols. 

8. The Overthrow of the German Confederation. By Sir A. 
Malet. London: Longmans, 1870. 

9. The Refounding of the German Empire. By Colonel 
Malleson. London : Seoiey & Co., 1893. 

10. Who is responsible for the AVar? By Scrutator. London : 
Eivingtons, 1871. 

11. France and Prussia. Correspondence relating to the 
Negotiations preliminary to the War. Presented to Parliament, 

William O'Connor MoRiiia. 

■29th June, 1893. 



Estimate formed of Moltke in Germany, France, and England 
— His birth and parentage — Sent to the Military School of 
Copenhagen ; enters the Danish, and then the Prussian 
army ; is attached to the Staff College at Berlin — His early 
promise and attainments — His domestic life and excellence 
— He travels in the East, and attempts to reform the 
Turkish army — the battle of Nisib — " His Letters on the 
East " — He is attached to the staff of the -tth Corps d'Armee 
— His marriage — His work on the war of 1828-29 — He is 
made aide-de-camp of Prince Henry of Prussia — His view 
of 1848 in Germany — He becomes Chief of the StafC of the 
4th Corps and a friend of the Crown Prince, afterwards 
Kingand Emperor — Travels in England, Russia, and France 
— Records of these experiences — He is appointed Chief of 
the General Staff of the Prussian Army .... 


Sketch of the history of the Prussian army — The army of Fre- 
derick the Great— That of 1813-14— The Reforms of 1815— 
The results — Reorganization of the army in 1859-60 — Great 
improvements effected by the King, Roon, and Moltke — 
Special work of Moltke in the staff and the army — Formid- 
able power of the army after 1860 — The Danish War — The 
war of 1866 — Political situation of the belligerent powers — 
Austria and Prussia stand on the defensive — The offensive 
projects of Moltke frustrated — Assembly of the Prussian 
armies on the frontiers of Saxony and Silesia — Assembly 
of the Austrian army in Moravia — Characteristics of that 
army — the Prussians invade Saxony and Bohemia — Ad- 
vance of the Austrians into Bohemia — The projects of 
General Benedek — He loses a great opportunity — Defeat 
of the Austrians in a series of combats and battles — 
Benedek retreats behind the Biatritz 29 




The Battle o£ Sadowa or Koniggratz — Complete victory of the 
Prussian armies^ — Retreat of Benedek — The Prussians march 
to the Danube — The Treaty of Prague — Reflections on the 
conduct of the war, and especially on the strategy and tactics 
of Moltke and the Prussian leaders 66 


Immense increase of the military power of Prussia after 1866 — 
League with Southern Germany — The Army of Prussia 
and tlie Confederation of the North — Its South German 
auxiliaries — Great efforts made to improve these forces — 
Attitude of France and Prui^sia after 1866 — War probable 
^Efforts made by Napoleon III. to increase and strengthen 
the French army — Sketch of the history of that army — The 
Emperor's attempted reforms almost fail — Deplorable 
weakness of the French compared to the German armies — 
Other causes of inferiority — The war of 1870-1 — The plan 
of Napoleon III. — The Army of the Rhine — The Emperor's 
plan is frustrated — The plan of Moltke — Concentration of 
the First, Second, and Third German armies in the Palati- 
nate and the Rhenish provinces — Positions of the belligerent 
armies at the end of July — The French perhaps lose an 
opportunity to strike the First Army- — The combat of Sarre- 
bruck — Advance of the united German armies to the frontier 
of France — Combat of Wiseembourg and defeat of a French 
detachment — Battle of Worth and defeat of the French 
army — Precipitate retreat of Macmahon — Battle of Spi- 
cheren and second defeat of the French — Critical position 
of the Army of the Rhine 93 


The German armies do not pursue the French after Worth and 
Spicheren — Opportunity lost by Moltke — Retreat of the 
Army of the Rhine, in part towards Chalons, in part to- 
wards the Moselle — Projects of Napoleon III. — The main 
part of the French army falls back from the Nied to Metz 
— Advance of the German armies to the Moselle — Marshal 
Bazaine made commander-in-chief of the whole French 
army, including the part approaching Chalons — His first 
operations — The French attempt to retreat on Verdun — 
Battle of Colombey Nouilly or Borny — Advance of the 
Germans beyond the Moselle — Bazaine and the French 
army to the west of Metz — Battle of Mars La Tour— Bazaine 
falls back to a strong position outside Metz — What he 
might have accomplished — Advance of the Germans — 
Battle of Gravelotte — Its vicissitudes and characteristics — 
The French, at last defeated, are driven back on Metz — 
Reflections on this passage in the war, and on the conduct 
of Moltke and his adversaries 133 




The results of Gravelotte— Formation of the Army of the Mouse 
and investment of Metz — Inaction of Bazaine — Opportunity 
still perhaps open to him — Advance of the Third Army — 
Formation of the Army of Chalons under Macmahon — He 
assents to a project to march on Metz for the relief of 
Bazaine — Folly of this plan — The Army of Chalons on the 
march — Fine project of Moltke to intercept this movement 
— Slow progress of the Army of Chalons — Macmahon, 
though aware of the danger, yields to advice from Paris and 
persists in the march — the German armies reach their 
enemy — Action of Nouart — Battle of Beaumont — Mac- 
mahon misses an opportunity of escape — The Army of 
Chalons at Sedan — Advance and night march of the German 
armies — Battle of Sedan and destruction of the Army of 
Chalons — Conduct of Moltke at the capitulation — Reflec- 
tions on these operations 172 


Advance of the Army of the Meuse and of the chief pait of 
the Third Army through France — The Germans in front of 
Paris — Confidence of Moltke — His miscalculation in sup- 
posing that France would yield in a short time — Revolution 
of 4th September — The Government of National Defence — 
Paris resolves to stand a siege — Resources of the cajjital in 
material and in military force — Investment of Paris by the 
German armies — Trochu and Ducrot — The zone of invest- 
ment — The zone of defence — Sorties made by the Parisian 
levies — Gambetta — The rising of France against the in- 
vaders — Organization of the defence — Extraordinary ability 
and energy of Gambetta — Formation of proviiicial armies — 
Erroneous views of Moltke as to the reality of the defence 
' of France — Fall of Laon, Toul, Strasbonrgr, Soissons, and 
other places — First defeats of the French provincial armies 
— The resistance continues — Conduct of Bazaine after tlie 
investment of Metz — The 26th of August at Metz — The 
battle of Noisseville — Criminal negligence and intrigues of 
Bazaine — The fall of Metz — Reflections on these events . 215 


Advance of the First and Second Armies i«to France after the 
fall of Metz — The besiegers' lines around Paris strengthened 
and reinforced — Mistake of Moltke as to the position of 
affairs outside Paris — The external zone — The Army of the 
Loire restored and largely increased — The Battle of Coul- 
miers — Alarm at the German headquarters at Versailles — 
Moltke makes preparations to raise the siege — Accidents 
which prevented the Army of the Loire from gaining the 
full results of its victory — Disastrous effect of the fall oC 


Metz on the military situation as regards France — 
D'Aui'elle falls back on Orleans, and places the Army pf 
the Loire within lines — Moltke again mistaken in the dis- 
tribution of the German forces — The Grand Duke of 
Mecklenburg sent to the West — Prince Frederick Charles 
near Orleans — Immense increase of the Army of the Loire — 
Prince Frederick Charles directs a general concentration of 
his own and the Grand Duke's forces — Views of Chanzy — 
Fatal mistakes made by Gambetta — The Battle of Beaune 
la Eolande — Ill-directed advance of the Army of the Loire, 
in the hope of relieving Paris — It is defeated and driven 
back on Orleans — Great sortie from Paris combined with 
false attacks — The BattleofVilliers— The sortie ultimately 
fails — Reflections on these events, and on the situation . 261 


The First Army in Picardy — Indecisive battle near Amiens — 
Advance of the First Army into Normandy — Retreat of 
the French Army of the North — Rouen captured — Fall of 
Thionville, Montmedy, and, before long, of Mezieres — These 
successes strengthen the position of the Germans round 
Paris and in France — Preparations for the bombardment 
of Paris — Werder in Burgundy and Tranche Comte— The 
siege of Belfort — Werder at Dijon — The French Army of 
the East — Garibaldi and Cremer — The Germans in the east 
reinforced by part of the First Army — The prospect becomes 
gloomy for France — Sudden change effected by Chanzy on 
the Loire — Events on this theatre of the war since the fall 
of Orleans — Chanzy attacked by the Germans — Protracted 
and desperate conflict of four days — Great ability of Chanzy 
— His skill and commanding influence over his troops and 
their officers — His retreat to the Loire — His masterly 
arrangements baffle the German commanders — They con- 
centrate their forces against him — He retreats to the 
Sarthe, occupies Le Mans, and resumes the offensive — The 
Grand Duke and Prince Frederick Charles fall back — 
Heavy losses of their armies — The French Army of the 
North marches towai'ds the Somme — Indecisive battle on 
the Hallue — Ineffectual sortie from Paris — The military 
situation, if unfavourable to France, is still doubtful — 
Gradual and immense additions to the numbers of the 
German troops — The efforts of France continue — Reflec- 
tions on these operations 304 


Retrospect of the military situation since Sedan — Position of 
affairs on the theatre of war at the end of 1870 — What the 
operations of the French ought to have been — Wise views 
of Chanzy— Gambetta directs Bourbaki and the First 
Army of the Loire towards the east — Reckless imprudence 
of this strategy in existing circumstances — The Grand 



Duke and Prince Frederick Charles advance against 
Chanzy and the Second Army of the Loire — bkilfiil 
operations of Chanzy — Battle of Lo Mans — The Cerinans 
held in check all day — The capture of one point in the line 
of defence at night compels Chanzy to retreat — He falls 
back on Laval and reorganizes his troops — Campaign in the 
north — Faidherbe successful at Bapaume — Be moves on St. 
Quentin, and retreats after an indecisive battle — Campaign 
in the east — Bad condition of Bourbaki's army — He ad- 
vances against Werder, and is successful at Villorsexel — 
He loses a great opportunity, chitHy owing to the state of 
his troops — Werder retreats behind the Lisaiue — Battles 
of Hericourt, and retreat of Bourbaki — Paris inolated— The 
external zone of the Germans intact — Bombardment of 
the forts and the enceinte of Paris — The city bombarded — 
Complete failure of the attack — Sortie of the 19th January 
— It fails — Sufferings of the population of Paris — Its 
heroic attitude — The armistice — Bourbaki's army excepted 
— Views of Chanzy in the event of hostilities being re- 
sumed — His masterly arrangements and unshaken con- 
stancy — Advance of Manteuffel and tlie German Army of 
the South against Bourbaki — Skill of Moltke in directing 
this operation — Bourliaki tries to commit suicide — Cata- 
strophe of his army, chiefly owing to a misunderstanding as 
to the armistice — It is forced to crf)ss thefrontier of France, 
and to retreat into Switzerland — Fall of Belfort and other 
French fortresses — Chanzy is still for war — The Assembly 
at Bordeaux pronounces for peace — The Treaty of Frank- 
fort — Part taken by Moltke in the conditions imposed on 
France — Reflections on the war, with special references to 
events after Sedan 328 


Welcome given to Moltke on his return from the war in France 
— Honours and distinctions conferred on him — He resumes 
his post as Chief of the Staff — His dislike of flattery — His 
decliningyears— Celebration of his sixtieth year of military 
service — His work with the General Staff — Preparation 
for war — Speeches in the Reichstag and Prussian Chamber 
— Jealousy of France — Life at Creisau — Moltke retires from 
the post of Chief of the Staff — Celebration of his ninetieth 
birthday — His death— Reflections on hia career . . . ij85 

Index 413 


Von Moltke. .... 
Von Moltke (2nd portrait) 
Napoleon III., Emperor of France 
Marshal Bazaine 
Marshal Macmahon . 
Bismarck .... 

General Chanzy 
William I., Emperor of Germany 



Map of Bohemia 
Plan of Sadowa 
Plan of Gravelotte 
Plan of Sedan . 
Map of Fortificationj 

of P 

Map of France, showing territory in undisputed possession 
of the Germans and of th-e French .... 






Estimate formed of Moltke in Germany, France, and England — 
His birth and parentage — Sent to the Military School of 
Copenhagen ; enters the Danish, and then the Prussian army ; 
is attached to the Staff College at Berlin — His early promise 
and attainments — His domestic life and excellence — He 
travels in the East, and attempts to reform the Turkish 
army — The battle of Nisib — " His Letters on the East " — He 
is attached to the staff of the 4th Corps d'Armee — His 
marriage — His work on the war of 1828-29 — He is made 
aide-de-camp of Prince Henry of Prussia — His view of 1848 
in Germany — He becomes Chief of the Staff of the 4th Corps 
and a friend of the Crown Prince, afterwards King and 
Emperor — Travels in England, Russia, and France — Records 
of these experiences — He is appointed Chief of the General 
Staff of the Prussian Army. 

In the early spring of 1891 Germany sate mourning 
for her most renowned soldier. To the imagination 
of the Teutonic race Moltke seemed a type of the 
mythical gods, worshipped in the past by his 
pagan fathers ; he had wielded the bolts of Tlior 
and the axe of Odin. His industry and skill had 
been main elements in the creation of that mighty 
instrument of war, the Prussian army, of the second 



half of the century. He had directed the opera- 
tions, which, in 1866, had struck down Austria in 
three weeks ; had thrust her out of her supreme 
place in Grermany ; and had made Prussia the head 
of the German people. Four years afterwards he 
had led the crusade of the League of Germany 
against Imperial France ; had more than avenged 
the disaster of Jena by the extraordinary triumphs 
of Metz and Sedan ; had crushed the heroic rising 
of the French nation ; and had imposed a humiliat- 
ing peace at the point of his sword, within sight, so 
to speak, of conquered Paris. 

The modest and retiring nature of the man, 
impatient of the tribe of undiscerning flatterers, 
only strengthened the chorus of general acclaim, 
which swelled around his grave in no uncertain 
accents. He had been known to his countrymen as 
" the great strategist " ; and they described him as 
the first of the masters of war, surpassing even 
Napoleon in power and in genius. France herself, 
who saw in him a deadly enemy, was not blind to 
his remarkable parts, and especially to his adminis- 
trative gifts, and while freely criticizing passages in 
his career, more than one French writer has given 
him a place above Frederick, and even beside 
Turenne. In England, where the worship of mere 
success prevails more widely than in other lands, 
and where the art of war is very little studied, the 
tribute of eulogy was without stint or measure. 
Moltke was transformed into an ideal hero ; and it 
was gravely announced that he was easily supreme 


in the noble company of the most famous warriors. 
A reaction, probably due, in part, to the publication 
of Moltke's work on the memorable war of 1870-71 — 
a superficial and unjust book, bearing plainly the 
marks of mental decay, has set in of late against 
this extravagance ; and the oracles have for some 
time been dumb which proclaimed their idol 
"unrivalled and faultless." In this fluctuating state 
of ill-led opinion, it is advisable, perhaps, to trace 
briefly the incidents of Moltke's life and career ; to 
try to ascertain what he really was ; to form an 
impartial estimate of his achievements ; and to 
endeavour to determine his true position among the 
great men who have prepared war, or who have 
conducted military operations in the field. Such a 
study, no doubt, must be incomplete ; our know- 
ledge is still imperfect in many respects ; and we 
cannot always point out the exact part played by 
Moltke in the most striking events in which he was 
a prominent actor. But the subject is one of im- 
mediate interest ; and it is better, perhaps, to treat it 
at once, inadequate as must be the treatment, before 
Moltke passes into the domain of History. 

Helmuth Charles Bernard Von Moltke was born 
in 1800, at Parchim, a little town in Mecklenburg, on 
an affluent of the Lower Elbe. The family of the 
child, of German origin, had for centuries belonged 
to the noblesse of the country ; and it produced a 
soldier in the Thirty Years' War, a follower, perhaps, 
of the great Grustavus. It had scattered, however, 

over many lands ; and the grandfather of the future 

B 2 


warrior is said to have served in the Austrian 
army towards the close of the eighteenth century. 
His sous were nearly all Prussian soldiers ; one 
was wounded on the fatal day of Jena ; another, 
perhaps, appeared in the train of the sovereigns 
who bowed the knee, at Erfurt, to the Protector of 
the Confederation of the Rhine ; a third seems to 
have died, at the Beresina, in the ranks of the 
perishing Grand Army ; and the father of Helmuth, 
though a Danish general, is believed to have been 
a Prussian officer. Of this parent of Moltke little is 
known, except that ^ he was almost a failure in life, 
and that he probably was an inferior man ; but 
Henrietta Paschen, his wife, was a remarkable 
woman, of fine parts, and of great strength of 
character; and in the case of Moltke, as in that of 
Napoleon and of many other illustrious names, it 
was the mother who transmitted the high qualities 
exhibited by the renowned offspring. 

General Moltke was a very poor man with a 
large family; and Helmuth grew up like his 
brothers and sisters, under the cold shade of privation 
and want, the best training, Napoleon has said, for 
a soldier. After learning the rudiments as he best 
could, the boy was entered a cadet at the Military 
School of Copenhagen when in his twelfth year. 
He was at this seminary until 1818 ; and one of his 
comrades has told us what was thought of him in 
the daily round of school life at this period. His 
industry was intense and never flagged ; and his 
^ Moltke's "Letters," vol. i. p. 18. English translation. 


marked gifts and resolute will commanded tlie 
respect of his young companions, for boys, as a 
rule, are good judges of character. Curiously 
enough, however, the stern reticence seen in the 
man, in mature age, was not apparent in these 
early days. Moltke was modest and shy, and even 
occasionally sad ; but he was amiable, and, in 
short, a *' good fellow " ; and, in this respect, he 
was the exact opposite of the silent Oorsican lad, 
who, in his teens, stood moodily apart from his 
mates, at Brienne. Moltke' s reminiscences of the 
Military. School were, nevertheless, by no means 
happy. The discipline of the place was harsh, 
nay brutal ; and he has said that it did him 
permanent harm.^ " I had no education," he wrote 
to one of his brothers, " but thrashing. I have had 
no chance of forming a character. I am often pain- 
fully conscious of it. This want of self-reliance 
and constant reference to the opinions of others, 
even the preponderance of reason over inclination, 
often gives me moral depressions, such as others 
feel from opposite causes. They were in such a 
hurry to efface every prominent characteristic, every 
peculiarity, as they would have nipped betimes 
every shoot of a yew hedge, that the result was 
weakness of character, the most fatal of all." Moltke, 
however, is not just to himself, in this estimate of 
his mental and moral qualities. If not of the very 
highest order, his intellect was of remarkable 
power, and certainly was not dwarfed or stunted ; 
' "Letters," vol. ii. p. 112. 


and he possessed firmness of purpose, and strength 
of character, pre-eminently among the warriors of 
his age. 

After an apprenticeship to Court life as a page, 
Helmuth obtained a commission in the Danish 
army. Perhaps, owing to the first stirrings of an 
earnest desire to rise in life, but more probably to 
his family ties, the youth passed from the service of 
a petty state to that of the military Prussian 
monarchy, and he became a lieutenant of Prussian 
infantry in 1822 when just of full age. He was 
soon afterwards attached to the Staff College^ at 
Berlin, an institution which has been the nursery 
of many eminent and scientific soldiers, and this 
proved a turning point in his career. He was 
already a ripe and laborious scholar ; he was ani- 
mated by a deep sense of duty ; pinched by in- 
digence, but with the pride of noble birth, he felt 
the impulse of nascent ambition ; and the discipline 
and the studies of the place were congenial to his 
powerful and acute intellect, and to his strong and 
resolute nature. Even now devoted to military 
pursuits, Moltke flung himself into his work with 
characteristic energy ; and though he did not lose 
his regimental rank, he remained for five years at the 
Staff College a most able, learned, and assiduous 
pupil. The time was well calculated to encourage 
the industry of an eager and thoughtful student of 
war, and to make his knowledge enlarged and 

' "The War School" of Scharnhorst, founded in 1810, but to 
be traced up, perhaps, to Frederick the Great. 


fruitful. The long peace, indeed, kept Europe in 
repose, and the great forces and changes which 
ultimately were profoundly to affect the military 
art, possessed, as yet, scarcely any influence. But 
the preceding era had been one of war, in grandeur 
beyond example ; the world had been convulsed by 
the shock of arms echoing from Paris to Madrid 
and Moscow ; the star of Napoleon had blazed over 
Europe, and had disappeared in portentous eclipse, 
and many eminent men had turned their minds to 
the interpretation ot' such events as Eivoli, Auster- 
litz, Torres Vedras, Waterloo. ISTot to speak of 
the invaluable contributions made by the chief 
actors in the drama themselves, the masterpieces of 
Napoleon in exile, and the admirable writings of 
the Archduke Charles, the greatest work of Jomini 
had appeared ; and the pens of many other ac- 
complished soldiers were skilfully illustrating the 
whole period. 

This important literature, as may be supposed, 
was not neglected at the Staff College, a military 
seminary of the highest repute ; and, indeed, 
Clausewitz, one of the best of critics, was, if we 
mistake not, lecturing at it on the campaigns of 
Napoleon, at this very time. Moltke eagerly 
studied, and completely mastered, the vast in- 
formation which this era affords to a careful 
thinker on war, ■ but he carried his researches 
much further back. He became thoroughly versed 
in the history of his art from the days of Hannibal 
to that of Frederick, and few minds, certainly, have 


made the theory of the profession of arms so wholly 
his own. The earnest scholar, however, did not 
confine himself to the literature or the science of 
war. He seems, indeed, never to have been deeply 
versed in politics in the highest sense ; he had not 
Napoleon's comprehensive grasp of political facts 
in their widest aspects ; he was deficient in the fine 
political tact seen in Marlborough, Turenne, and 
Wellington. But he devoured general history in 
all its branches ; he became one of the most learned 
of men, and, especially, he showed astonishing 
power in acquiring a knowledge of many tongues. 
French writers, however, are much in error when 
they describe Moltke as a mere " bookworm," ** a 
military monk," in these laborious days. He was 
often employed in making surveys of different parts 
of the Prussian dominions and in other duties of 
the engineer ; and this training stood him in good 
stead when it fell to his lot to direct armies. He 
travelled, too, a good deal in these years, and his 
notes of these journeys reveal a mind far-reaching, 
healthy, and rich with sympathy. He regarded the 
Polish race with the eye of a Prussian, yet he was 
touched by the memory of its glories in the past, 
and he almost mourns over its fallen greatness. He 
was strongly moved, too, by the pomp and the 
majesty of the Catholic ritual in the great towns 
of Poland, and he took a marked interest in all that 
he saw in Silesia. The most striking feature of 
these experiences is, however, the admiration shown 
by the author for the grandeur of Nature ; it"** 


alike heartfelt, keen, and intelligent. The broad 
river and the cultivated flat suggest all kinds of 
felicitous thoughts ; and like most dwellers in lands 
of plains, Moltke sought with delight the heights 
of the mountain. In one of his letters he dilates 
with ecstasy on the vast panorama of varied beauty, 
which unfolds itself to the eye from the top of 
Schneekoppe — the highest peak of the Giant Hills — 
the region through which, forty years afterwards, 
he was to move the armed strength of Prussia to 
the field of Sadowa. 

The intelligent heads of the Staff College appre- 
ciated the remarkable promise and unceasing in- 
dustry of the young officer, who seems to have 
easily surpassed his fellows, and Moltke was at- 
tached to the general staff of the Prussian army in 
1828, having been an instructor for a short time at 
a district military school at Frankfort. It has 
often been observed that he rose slowly in life, and 
this, to a great extent, is true ; but, in the first 
years of his career as a subaltern his merits secured 
him more speedy advancement than was usual at 
the time in the Prussian service. He served on 
the staff, wnthout intermission, for some years in 
the first instance, and his professional duties were, 
in part, the same as those which he had performed 
at the Staff College, that is, he was much engaged 
in the work of surveys. But he was employed 
a good deal in teaching pupils at the Staff College 
the knowledge of war ; he drew up abstracts of 
several important campaigns; he attended the 


military manoeuvres which, even in those days, 
formed part of the training of the Prussian soldier ; 
he made a number of confidential reports ; above 
all, he had ample means of making himself ac- 
quainted with the administration of the Prussian 
staff and with the organization of the Prussian 
army. He gradually became a man of some mark ; 
a report from his pen on the Dauish army was 
selected for special praise by the king; and in 1835 
he was promoted to the rank of captain,^ " having 
passed over the heads of four of his seniors and the 
whole body of twelve first lieutenants." He found 
time, however, for the pursuit of letters, to which 
he remained devoted through life, amidst his multi- 
farious work on the staff ; and he made his first 
essays, in these years, in authorship. Two works 
from his pen, one on " Belgium and Holland," the 
other on " Poland, and its present State," were 
published in 1830-31, but they have long been out 
of print and forgotten. The first, he informs us, 
cost him prodigious toil, but its real merits could 
have hardly been great, for he has said that he 
could not understand the reasons why the Belgians 
and Dutch disliked each other, an instance of the 
want of political insight, which we see in his ideas 
about Alsace and Lorraine, and their sympathies in 
1870-71. The book on Poland, however, attracted 
attention, and was described by the censor of the 
press at Berlin " as the work of a man of fifty years' 
experience." About this time, too, Moltke under- 
' "Letters," vol. i. p. 115. 



took the task of translating the " Dechne and Fall " 
of Gibbon, but he seems to have completed one 
volume only. Still under the heavy stress of 
poverty, he agreed to accomplish this " herculean 
work " for a miserable payment of about 60/. 

The inner and domestic life of Moltke, during 
these years of his early manhood, reveal a very 
pleasing side of his character. His marked ability, 
his great acquirements, his growing reputation, his 
strong will, had made him the real head of his 
family, and he became its mentor and master spirit. 
His father, evidently a weak man, had been long 
disgusted with his profession ; the son, though 
scarcely able to make ends meet, offered to divide 
his scanty pay with him, in the hope that he would 
remain in the Danish service. Moltke' s letters to 
his brothers Adolf and Ludwig, both destined to 
rise above the common herd, constantly urge them 
forward in the path of duty; he reminds them 
*' how ^ imperatively and seriously necessary it is 
that we should make our own way in life ;" and yet 
they are wholly free from attempts at dictation and 
from the self-assertion of a superior nature. The 
spirit in which he confronted the battle of life, for 
the sake of those dear to him, as well as his own, 
appears in more than one passage like this ^ : ** I 
will set out with new courage on the thorny race- 
course, on which I am striving after fortune alone, 
and so far from you all. May I attain it for you 

1 "Letters," vol. ii. p. 107. 

2 Ibid. vol. i. p. 10. 


all ! " To his mother, whom he greatly loved and 
revered, he gave the full expression of his thoughts 
and hopes ; and his letters to her confirm the im- 
pression we obtain from many sources of his real 
character, aspiring and solid, manly, but tender. 
He rejoices in her sympathy, as he slowly climbs up 
the difficult ascent that leads to distinction ; he 
cheers her in her life of privation and sorrow — she 
had been parted for years from her husband ; he 
consults her on almost all subjects. Like other 
young men he often has the idea of marriage in his 
mind ; and it is curious to note that, grave and 
sedate, he thinks that mere passion, in most 
instances, is not a prelude to a happy union ; and 
he believes lady-killers to be nearly always fools. 
Yet Moltke's heart was not closed to love ; he felt 
deeply the charms of a fair young Pole, though, 
with characteristic pride of race, he tells his mother 
he would not give her " a Polish daughter-in-law ; " 
and he was strongly attached to two sisters, to 
whom he addressed a poetaster's homage, not above, 
we must say, the average standard. Nor was he 
by any means a morose recluse in these years of 
hard work and engrossing study. He was joyous 
and brilliant in social converse, and was much liked 
by his brother officers ; and he saw a great deal of 
the high life of Berlin. 

In 1835 Moltke set off on a long journey to the 
East. He explored Vienna ; made his way, with 
difficulty, through the immense tracts watered by 
the Lower Danube ; and reached Constantinople, 


from across the Balkans. The Sultan, Malioraed 
II., was, at this time, engaged in an attempt to 
restore his military power ; and he gladly availed 
himself of the aid of a soldier, recommended to hira 
by the Prussian embassy. Moltke soon stood well 
with the advisers of the Porte, being held in peculiar 
esteem by Ohosref Pacha, the War Minister, and 
commander-in-chief ; and a small party of Prussian 
officers was sent from Berlin to help him in his new 
official duties. The companions remained in the 
East for nearly four years ; and Moltke penetrated 
into almost every part of the vast and decaying 
realms of Islam, from the Bulgarian plains to the 
range of the Taurus. What he really accomplished 
in the work of reform and reorganization is well 
nigh unknown. The period was one when the 
Turkish Empire seemed on the verge of speedy 
extinction. Russia had made Mahomed almost a 
vassal ; whole provinces were in constant revolt ; the 
subject populations had begun to stir under the iron 
yoke of their detested masters ; and the fierce 
janissary horde, the true embodiment of the con- 
quering power of the Osmanli race, had perished 
under the hand of their chiefs. Moltke surveyed 
the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, and gave the 
Sultan excellent advice, as to the defences of his 
renowned capital, lately menaced by the legions of 
Diebitsch; and he accompanied him on a journey 
to the Danubian fortresess, half destroyed by the 
last Russian invasion. He proposed, also, it seems, 
that a kind of militia, resembling, in some measure, 


the Prussian landwehr, should be formed and 
arrayed throughout the Empire; and it deserves 
special notice that, like a true reformer, he endea- 
voured to adapt the reforms he suggested to national 
habits, tendencies, and tastes. It is evident, how- 
ever, that his administrative powers made no perma- 
nent impression on the sloth, the corruption, and 
the imbecility of the Turkish War Office, and added 
little to the military strength of the Porte. The 
Crimean War found the Empire almost defenceless, 
and its armies an assemblage of ill-trained levies, 
in which^ " what was good in barbarian warfare 
was lost without much gain from what civilization 

Moltke and his companions were in Asia Minor, in 
1838 and 1839, attached to one of the armies of the 
Porte. The Kurds in the East were in revolt, and 
Ibrahim Pacha, a son of Mehemet Ali, the powerful 
and rebel satrap of Egypt, was threatening the 
Empire from the Syrian frontier. Moltke made his 
way throughout the great Peninsula, where the 
remains of the glories of Greece and Rome still rise 
to the sight amidst the waste and desolation pro- 
duced by barbarian conquest, and where Nature 
unfolds some of her most majestic scenes. He 
visited several ports of the Euxine; crossed the 
table-land of the central provinces ; descended 
into the Mesopotamian plain dividing the Tigris 
from the Euphrates ; and explored the ruins of the 
great fortresses which formed the advanced posts 
' " The Russians in Bulgaria and Roumelia," by Moltke, p. 269. 


of the Legions in the East. One incident of these 
days may be noticed, for it was significant of his 
persevering and strongly marked character. Moltke 
was invited by Hafiz, the Pacha in command of the 
Ottoman force, to endeavour to ascertain if the 
Euphrates was navigable along a certain space, and 
could be made an avenue for the transport of sup- 
plies ; and he set off on an errand, declared to be 
impossible by the Kurdish boatmen on the spot. 
Having had a raft constructed, he launched it on 
the stream ; it was in vain that, after a few hours' 
experience of the force of the current, part of his 
crew dropped off ; he persisted doggedly in the 
perilous attempt, and though his frail craft was 
half swamped, and nearly dashed to pieces, he suc- 
cessfully threaded a maze of cataracts, and returned 
to his chief with a detailed report. Moltke made 
his earliest experiences in the field at this period ; 
and it was his fortune, like that of Eugene of Savoy, 
to see war for the first time as it was conducted by 
the arms of Islam. In the summer of 1839 the 
Egyptian army of Ibrahim Pacha was set in motion, 
and, having reached Aleppo, it threatened to ad- 
vance, through the passes of the Taurus, into the 
northern provinces. Two Turkish armies were 
opposed to it, that of Hafiz Pacha in Western 
Kurdistan, that of Hadzchi Pacha, spread around 
Koniah, the Iconium of the age of Imperial Rome, 
but they were separated by vast and scarcely pass- 
able tracts, and Ibrahim might force his way between 
them, and possibly even defeat them in detail. To 


avert this, Hafiz approached the verge of Syria, 
upon the Upper Euphrates, and placed his army in 
a camp round Biradchik, not far from the little 
stream of the Nisib. Moltke entreated the Pacha 
to take advantage of a circuitous movement made 
by Ibrahim, in order to turn his enemy's flank; but 
Hafiz failed to seize the occasion ; and his adviser 
insisted that all that was now to be done was to 
fall back to the camp, from which the Turkish army 
had lately advanced. The Pacha, however, turned 
a deaf ear to the warnings of the soldier who, 
throughout the affair, had given proof of a true 
military eye ; and, persuaded by the ignorant mol- 
lahs on the spot — the sachems of the superstitious 
Turk — persisted obstinately in maintaining his 
ground. Ibrahim^ interposed between his adver- 
sary and his camp, attacked boldly on the 23rd of 
July, and easily won a complete victory, so decisive 
that the virtual independence of Egypt may be said 
to date from the day of Nisib. Moltke and his com- 
rades escaped, with difficulty, through masses of 
fugitives in headlong rout ; it is significant of the 
idea he had formed of the military worth of a Turkish 
army, that he thought it a positive gain that there 
were no means of retreat open from the camp of 
Hafiz, for this would " force the Osmanli to do or 
to die." 

A series of " Letters on the East " records all that 
Moltke saw and did in these travels. This volume 

^ A French officer, Captain Hautpoul, curiously enough, urged 
Ibrahim to make this movement. 


alone would entitle the author to some distinction in 
the sphere of literature ; it abounds in thorough 
and well-digested knowledge, in cultivated thought, 
in true human sympathy. Professional studies fill 
many pages ; and Moltke dwells on the natural 
strength of Constantinople as a seat of Empire, on 
the great capabilities of the Dardanelles for defence, 
on the value of the Balkans and the line of the 
Danube as barriers against an invading army. He 
explodes, we may note, what in those days was, 
perhaps, an article in the faith of British seamen ; 
and insists that ships are no match for forts, as was 
seen at Sebastopol years afterwards. The book, 
however, is mainly one of travels, and few experiences 
of the East possess equal interest. In every 
chapter we find the accomplished scholar, the man 
of reflection, the master of language. A military 
search for the ruins of Troy recalls the immortal 
memories that cling around Ida, the Simois, and 
the land of Priam. The forms of buried empires 
rise out of the past, as Moltke threads his way 
between the great rivers that watered the realms of 
Belshazzar and Cyrus. Edessa, Nisibis, and other 
remains of the grandeur of Rome revive images 
of the Cassars and their all-subduing armies ; and 
the Kurd tillers of the soil and the wandering 
Arabs are seen through eyes that have loved the 
Sacred Writings. If somewhat wanting in imagina- 
tive power, the descriptions of scenery are well 
finished, and especially are rich in life and colour. 
We see Vienna before us, with its antique streets, 


its gay public places, and its noble churcb over- 
looking the Marchfield and the mighty Danube. 
Bucharest rises brightly from the Wallachian flats, 
a human oasis in a desolate waste; the Balkan 
heights and the Bulgarian plains stand out with 
the Euxine in the far distance. But Constantinople 
is the most striking, scene ; and the animation of 
the West stirring along the Bosphorus, in strange 
contrast with the decaying grandeur of other ]3arts 
of the Imperial City, and all the associations, of 
which the dome of St. Sophia may be deemed the 
centre, have never been more effectively portrayed. 
The work ends with a comparison between what 
has been achieved by the Czars and the Sultans 
during the last two centuries in th.e work of 
Empire. Here, however, Moltke has missed part 
of the truth ; he is less successful with man than 
with Nature ; lie ought to have brought out more 
clearly the fact that the Russians are a great if a 
backward nation, and that the Turks are a mere 
degenerate horde. 

In 1840 Moltke was again in Berlin ; he 
attained the rank of major a short time afterwards, 
and he was placed on the staff of the 4th Corps 
d'armee, a passage in his career that was to prove of 
moment. He was now in the prime of full manhood ; 
and a casual observer has given us a faint glimpse 
of a figure and bearing that have become historical. 
He describes Moltke " as thin and tall of stature, 
with a sharp, bronzed face, and with lips that seldom 
opened, grave, taciturn, and self-contained ; " and 


this description evidently has been a model for 
French writers, who, in the bitterness of their 
hearts, have compared his aspect in old age to 
that " of a vulture, lean and silent, as it devours 
its prey." Yet if we may judge from authentic 
portraits, Moltke was at this time a handsome man, 
blue-eyed, fair-haired, and refined in look ; and 
though he was not in any sense talkative, and he 
never wore his heart on his sleeve, he was a delight- 
ful companion to those who knew him well. The 
mother he loved had now passed away ; she was to 
be soon followed by his surviving parent ; and his 
brothers and sisters were settled in life, two of the 
brothers, Adolf and Ludwig, referred to before, 
having made their mark in the Civil Service of the 
debateable lands of Schleswig and Hoi stein. In 181-2 
Moltke made the acquaintance of Mary Burt, the 
daughter of an English gentleman, whose second 
wife had been one of Moltke's sisters ; and the 
acquaintance led to a most happy union. Marie, as 
he always called her, was the fitting helpmeet of the 
hard-working and ambitious soldier ; she appre- 
ciated his lofty and strong character; and he was 
deeply, nay, passionately, attached to her. What 
she was appears in these few words, witten by her 
husband to one of his family ^ : " My little wife is 
my greatest joy. In five years I have rarely seen 
her sad, and never cross. She has no vagaries, and 
allows of none in other people. But no one sliould 
do her a real wrong, for, with the best will in the 

' " Letters," vol. i. p. 177. 
C 2 


world, she could not forgive it ; with all her light- 
heartedness, she has a decided, strong, and deep 
nature, which she would assert under all adverse cir- 
cumstances. God preserve her from such. But I 
know what I possess in her." After twenty-six 
years of wedded happiness, this excellent and really 
superior woman was carried away before her time, 
but she lived to see all Prussia do homage to her lord, 
as he returned a conqueror from Sadowa to Berlin. 
A simple monument raised to her memory at the 
home of Moltke's last honoured years, contains this 
epitaph from his thoughtful pen : " Love is the ful- 
filment of the law of God." 

About the time of his marriage Moltke published 
his^ History of the War between the Russians and 
Turks in 1828 and 1829. Unlike the bulky volumes 
compiled by the Prussian Staff, which chronicle 
the great conflicts of late years, but only bear slight 
marks of his hand, this work is entirely from his 
pen, and it is alike interesting and, in some respects, 
curious. A strong imagination was not one of 
Moltke's gifts, but he seems always to have thought 
that this creative faculty was out of place in de- 
scribing war, and the book has no traces of the 
animation and beauty repeatedly seen in the 
" Letters on the East." The narrative is sedate 
and without colour, though the subject abounds in 

' This book is entitled, " The Kussians in Bulgaria and 
Eoumelia in 1828 and 1829." A translation of it into English 
appeared in 1854, during the Crimean AVar. Moltke was even 
then so little known in Europe that the translator asserted he 
was dead. 


dramatic scenes ; the storming of Ibrail is tame and 
lifeless compared to Napier's sketch of the storming 
of Badajoz ; the passage of the Danube and that of 
the Balkans do not awake one spark of poetic fire, 
and the account of the sieges of the Turkish strong- 
holds is little more than the diary of an engineer. 
But the criticism of the operations of the contending 
armies is very able, and valuable in the extreme ; 
and this is the more remarkable because Moltke, 
unlike Napoleon, is not given to military criticism 
and comments on war. The mistakes made by the 
Russian commanders in crossing the Danube with 
too weak a force, and especially in waiting whole 
weeks around Shumla, and the incapacity of the 
Turkish Pachas, are clearly and completely set forth, 
and full justice is done to the powers of Diebitsch, 
and, above all, to his boldness in pressing forward to 
Adrianople with the wreck of an army, wasted by 
forced marches, want, and disease. Yet the most 
striking characteristic of the work is the attention 
the author bestows on the mechanism of war, on the 
nature and composition of the hostile forces, and on 
the preparations made for their movements in the 
field. Moltke dwells with emphasis on the frightful 
losses sustained by the Russians through sheer 
neglect, and he significantly points out how ill- 
adapted the troops in many respects were to cope 
with the difficulties of a campaign in Bulgaria. A 
master of organization is more apparent throughout 
the volume than a master of war. 

Though remaining attached to the staff of his 


corps, Moltke was appointed aide-de-camp to Prince 
Henry of Prussia — a brother of the monarch who 
succumbed at Jena — and was with his chief in Rome 
in the autumn of 1845. The Prince was a dying 
invahd, and Moltke and his wife had ample leisure 
to see the Eternal City and its departed glories. 
Characteristically he thoroughly studied Niehbuhr, 
and extracted fruit from those hard, dry husks ; 
but his sound judgment rebelled against the de- 
structive scepticism of the historian, and he continued 
to believe in Egeria and Numa. A short work on 
Italy appeared from his pen, but it does not require 
special notice ; it scarcely alludes to the Italian 
Question, already beginning to stir the Continent, 
and it relates chiefly to Rome and Italian scenery. 
One passage, however, in Moltke's letters,^ which 
dwells on all that he saw and felt from the dome of 
St. Peter's, is a good specimen of his peculiar 
descriptive skill ; the associations of the past are 
well blended in a thoughtful picture with the present 
landscape. A short journey through Spain, made 
after the death of Prince Henry, closed this chapter 
of travels, and it is interesting to show that, as the 
reflecting soldier notes how " German colonists in 
Spain and other lands forget their fallen nationality 
and its ties,'' he gives proof of a yearning for 
German unity. In 1847 Moltke, now become a 
colonel, was again at his work with the 4th Corps, 
and,^ strangely enough, he had thoughts of leaving the 
army, at the very time when the tide of fortune was 
' "Letters," vol. ii. p. 160. '" Ibid. vol. i. p. 177. 


near. This resolve was, possibly, in part due to 
the mutterings of the revolutionary storm already 
beginning to be heard in Germany. Moltke had 
the political faith of a Prussian noble ; he detested 
Liberalism and all its ways; and, if he wished to 
see Germany rise from her weakness, he felt nothing 
but scorn for German democracy. When 1848 
swept over the Continent, and " shriekers in Frank- 
fort" were trying to erect a new Germany on the 
wrecks of princedoms and thrones, and anarchy had 
revelled in the streets of Berlin, it seemed to Moltke 
as if the end of all things was near, and he ^ contem- 
plated, for a moment, quitting the Old World and 
making a home for those he loved in the New, if 
his sword was not immediately required for his 
country's service. 

Events, however, turned Moltke aside from what 
was probably but a fleeting purpose. He was 
made Chief of the Staff of his Corps towards the 
close of 1848, an honour to which he had long 
aspired, and which he had thought the extreme 
range of his highest ambition. His was now really 
the directing mind of a small army complete in 
itself, and his ability, his industry, his attention to 
details, felt through the whole sphere of regimental 
work, soon raised the 4th Corps to marked eminence.^ 
" Such troops, if Frederick the Great had only had 
them," he wrote of his men, with honourable pride ; 
and it may be remarked that, though strict in the ex- 
treme, he was popular with the young staff officers. 
' "Letters," vol. i. p. 181. ' Ibid. vol. i. p. 228. 


He was stationed at Magdeburg during the next 
few years, and for some time lie was engaged in 
repressing the irregular risings and mob violence 
in which the movement of 1848 had ended, a duty 
sternly but discreetly performed, and not in the 
spirit of Dalzell or Claverhouse. As usual, too, he 
devoted many hours to military duties at this period, 
and he gave considerable attention to the Crimean 
War, the last exhibition of the conduct and method 
of war in the first years of this century, eliminating 
genius and experience in the field. These passages, 
however, were not the most important in this part 
of Moltke's career. The Crown Prince— the King 
and Emperor who was to be — was Commander-in- 
Chief of the 4th Corps, and this true soldier, who 
had the high faculty of discovering and esteeming 
superior men, had appreciated the merits of the 
Chief of his Staff. The Prince and Moltke became 
fast friends, and seldom, indeed, have two minds 
been united by ties of such close sympathy. The 
Crown Prince had the wrongs of his mother 
to avenge — the ill-fated Louise of Jena and 
Tilsit — and cordially hated all that was French, 
and Moltke felt towards France as a Prussian 
soldier, and had described her as the^ disturber of 
Europe. Both, too, had a fixed, if undefined, notion 
that Prussia ought to be the head of a united 
Germany, and that this object was to be attained 
through the army ; both resented the weakness, the 
folly, the license, which had been so disastrous in 
' " Letters," vol. i. p. 78. 

To face pi'ge 25. 


1848 ; both believed that " heroes woiikl take the 
place of spouters" — a pregnant and significant 
phrase of Moltke — and both bitterly felt the dis- 
grace of Olmiitz, the subjection of Prussia to the 
will of Austria, in 1851-2, and the sorry attitude of 
Prussia durinsf the Crimean War.^ 

The reputation of Moltke, in the words of Horace, 
" grew like the hidden growth of a tree." He did 
not become a general until 1856, when verging on 
the decline of manhood, an age when most com- 
manders have done their work. Through the 
influence, doubtless, of the Crown Prince, he was 
made an aide-de-camp of his son Frederick — the late 
and deeply-regretted Emperor — and he went with 
his chief once more on his travels. He was present 
at the marriage of the Princess Royal, but he has 
scarcely referred to what he saw in England, 
though, like Bugeaud, he admired the British 
infantry, and, like Bugeaud, probably thought them 
a handful of men. A collection of letters from his 
pen, to his wife, describes a visit to Russia in 1856, 
and though full of details of Court life and gossip, 
is, nevertheless, of some lasting interest. St. 
Petersburg did not strike Moltke, but he was deeply 
moved by the sight of Moscow — that city of the East 
on the border of the West, oriental in type, yet, 
above all. Christian — and from the summit of the 
Kremlin he looks back at the days when the plain 

' The views and opinions of the Crown Prince on these subjects 
are well known. For those of Moltke, see " Letters," vol. i. pp. 
188, 189, 193, 217, 228, &c. 


swarmed with the horsemen of the Golden Horde, 
and the affrighted Muscovite shrank behind ram- 
parts thrown up to resist the conquering Tartar. 
Curiously enough, he only alludes in one passage to 
the great invasion of the West in 1812; and he 
complacently gazes on hundreds of French cannon, 
captured in the long and awful retreat. The 
Russian army made a strong impression on his 
mind ; that armed assemblage of many races and 
tongues from the Caucasus to the Baltic and Cas- 
pian brings vividly before him the power of the 
Czars ; and he dwells with marked approbation on 
the well-ordered lines and steadiness of the masses 
of the Russian troops, characteristic of a nature 
which made discipline and obedience the first of a 
soldier's qualities. Soon after this time he was with 
the Prince in Paris, but his record of his experiences 
is brief and trivial. The splendour of the Tuileries 
and the gay magnificence of the City on the Seine 
delight and amaze him; and we seem to be in the 
presence of a great martial Goth, who, dimly 
conscious that the hour of his race is at hand, 
passes through the Rome of Decius and Gallus. Of 
the French army he says very little, but anything 
he says is by no means in its favour. He had called 
the Empire^ a *' magnificent swindle," and he sees 
plainly that Csesarism without a Csesar — Napoleon 
III. in the seat of Napoleon — democracy, faction, 
routine, and tradition had injured the military in- 
stitutions of France. At a time when the French 
' " Letters," vol. i. p. 231. 


army was deemed a model for all the great Con- 
tinental armies, Moitke criticized sharply the loose 
indiscipline and irregular marching of French 
troops ; and to a mind like his, which placed order 
before liberty, the intelligence and agility of the 
French soldier were not rated at their true worth. ^ 
Moitke was to show that he did not comprehend 
the essential aptitude for war of the illustrious race 
which has been the wonder and terror, more than 
once, of Europe. 

The hour of deserved advancement, deferred 
for years, was, at last, to come for the man of 
thought and action, remarkable alike for strength 
of mind and of character. Frederick "William of 
Prussia was learned and enlightened, but he had 
been, in the main, a bad ruler; he had missed his 
opportunity in 1848, had rejected the Crown offered 
by the German people, and had been false and 
infirm of purpose ; he had let Prussia sink into a 
third-rate power, and had allowed the Prussian 
army greatly to decline. His intellect gave way in 
1857, and the Crown Prince, his brother, the friend 
of Moitke, having become Regent and ere long 
King, addressed himself to the task of raising the 
Monarchy and the State from its fallen position. 
King William, we have seen, had a kind of notion 
that Prussia should be at the head of the G-erman 
nation ; he detested the policy of liis predecessor, 
and he clearly saw that the military power of 

' " Le Mardchal Moitke," par. xxx. 107-8. This work is by a 
French General Officer. 


Prussia must be greatly increased if she was to 
work out her apparent destiny. Conservative, 
simple-minded, and above all a Prussian soldier, 
intent on Prussian interests, it was some time before 
he lent an ear to the audacious and crafty counsels 
of Bismarck, and thought of reaching the goal of 
German unity by seconding " with blood and iron," 
and without doubt or scruple, a movement partly 
revolutionary, and in part national. But he resolved 
from the first to reform the Prussian army, and to 
make it what it had ceased to be, a formidable and 
efficient instrument of war. As early as 1858, and 
years before Bismarck became Minister, the late 
Commander of the 4th Corps appointed Moltke 
Chief of the General Staff, that is, gave him the 
supreme direction of military affairs, lioon, the 
Minister of War, soon became his colleague, and 
the complete reorganization of the armed strength 
of Prussia was steadily taken in hand. 


Sketch of the history of the Prussian army — The army of Fre- 
detick the Great— That of 1813-14— The Reforms of 1815— 
The results — Reorganization of the army in 1859-60 — Great 
improvements effected by the King, Roon, and Moltke — 
Special work of Moltke in the staff and the army — Formidable 
power of the army after 1860 — The Danish War — The war 
of 1866 — Political situation of the belligerent powers — 
Austria and Prussia stand on the defensive — The offensive 
projects of Moltke frustrated — Assembly of the Prussian 
armies on the frontiers of Saxony and Silesia — Assembly 
of the Austrian army in Moravia — Characteristics of that 
army — The Prussians invade Saxony and Bohemia — Advance 
of the Austrians into Bohemia — The projects of General 
Benedek — He loses a great opportunity — Defeat of the 
Austrians in a series of combats and battles — Benedek re- 
treats behind the Bistritz. 

Though the youngest army of the great powers of 
Europe, the Prussian army has known many 
strange vicissitudes. It owed its existence to the 
Great Elector, a contemporary and opponent of 
Turenne ; it had been made a powerful and well- 
trained force by soldiers brought up in the school 
of Marlborough ; it became a most formidable 
organization for war in the vigorous hands of 
Frederick the Great. It had, nevertheless, many 
essential defects, though these were scarcely apparent 
when it was led by a commander, if not of the very 
first order, far superior to the commanders of his 


timej It was largely recruited from mere mer- 
cenaries ; it had hundreds of foreign officers in its 
ranks ; it was subjected to a barbarous discipline, 
and badly supplied in many particulars ; its supe- 
riors were drawn from a caste of nobles, who had 
a kind of property in the troops they mustered; 
and if the fire of its infantry was in the highest 
degree excellent, and its cavalry was a mighty arm, 
its formations, though much the best of its day, 
were, nevertheless, somewhat stiff and cumbrous. 

The army rapidly declined after the death of 
Frederick ; and its essential vices became but too 
manifest, when it went down in 1806-7, before the 
soldiery of Revolutionary France, commanded by 
the greatest of captains, enthusiastic, flexible, and 
well-handled by officers largely promoted for merit ; 
when desertion carried away all its alien elements, 
and when, in a word, it was reduced to impotence. 
The army of Frederick, in fact, disappeared ; but 
Prussia, a martial jjeople, remained ; and in the 
hour of subjugation and defeat, her military chiefs 
undertook the task of creating a new army out of 
the ruins of the old. This was a most dangerous 
and difficult work, for the Conqueror of Jena had 
insisted that the Prussian army should, in no case, 
exceed 42,000 men; and the policy of Napoleon, in 
fact, was to keep it in a state of . mere vassalage to 
himself. A man of genius, however, and the spirit 

* Among many other authorities, " The Memoirs of General 
Marbot,"Tome i. 386-7, contain interesting details on the subject. 
See also The Edinhurgh Revittc for January, 1892. 


of the race contrived to baffle the will of the all- 
powerful despot. Scharnhorst, made the minister 
of war of Prussia, afraid of the jealous Lord of the 
Continent, kept the standing array within the 
limited strength, as regards the troops in actual 
service ; but he passed through the ranks and 
partly trained tens of thousands of youths in rapid 
succession ; and these, fired with patriotism and 
apt for war, were admirably fitted to become good 
soldiers, and formed elements of great military 
power. Other reforms lessened and even removed 
the most glaring defects of the old army; and, as 
the result, the army of Scharnhorst expanded sud- 
denly in 1813 to a force of more than 200,000 men, 
superior to that of its aUies in Saxony. The mar- 
vellous rising of Germany did the rest ; volunteers, 
burning to avenge their country, flocked in multi- 
tudes to the Prussian standards ; and such was 
the enthusiasm of the wronged nation, that Prussia 
was able to raise a powerful militia, ever since 
known by the name of Landwehr. What these 
formidable arrays achieved in the field, was seen in 
many a hard-fought struggle from tbe banks of the 
Elbe to those of the Seine, and especially on the 
crowning day of Waterloo. 

The military institutions of Prussia, however, 
were not permitted to rest permanently on the 
patriotic levies of 1813 ; their bases were laid two 
years afterwards ; for it is characteristic of Prussia 
that she establishes her organization for war in 
peace. The gene a main lines on which the 


armed strength of the nation has ever since been 
built up were not finally marked out until 1815. 
By these arrangements, it was provided that every 
Prussian subject is bound to military service as his 
duty to the State ; and in theory, this principle has 
been steadily retained. In practice, however, a 
yearly contingent of not more than 40,000 men 
was sent into the ranks of the army, a succession 
of these contingents yielding the elements which 
made up the national forces. The standing army 
was composed of about 200,000 men, liable, in the 
first instance, to serve for three years, and then 
drafted into a reserve in which they were to serve 
for two ; and they next passed into the reserve of 
the Landwehr, which, divided into two main bodies, 
could furnish perhaps 300,000 men, for the most 
part beyond the age of youth. The army, con- 
stituted in this way, was organized on a local terri- 
torial system ; that is, it was formed into corps 
d'armee, each belonging to a separate part of the 
monarchy, and being a unit distinct in itself ; 
this corresponding to immemorial tendencies and 
traditions of the Teutonic race, which ^ Caesar and 
Tacitus inform us, went to war in tribes. The 
Landstiirm, a kind of universal levy, to be called 
out only in the event of invasion, formed the last 
defensive force of the State. 

This organization gave Prussia an army of half 
a million of men, including the Landwehr but not 

^ Caesar, De Bello Gallico, cap. 51 ; Tacitus, De Moribus 
GermaniaB, cap, 7. 


the Landsturm, an irregular and extraordinary 
force. But if the army was large in numbers and 
appeared powerful, the system, on which it rested, 
had many defects, and it became a very inferior 
instrument of war. The yearly contingent remained 
40,000 strong ; but, as the population of the State 
increased, it ought to have been enlarged in pro- 
portion ; and many thousands of men, who miglit 
well have served, were never summoned to join the 
colours. The term of service, too, in the standing 
army was, especially for the reserve, short ; it could 
not exceed five years in the whole and, in fact, it 
was often reduced to four. The most faulty side 
of the system, however, was exhibited in the Land- 
wehr as a military force. It had been assumed 
that this great reserve would always give proof of 
the high martial qualities it showed in 1813-14, and 
would yield the army regularly an ample supply of 
trained, mature, and thoroughly loyal soldiers. 
But what was possible in a general national rising, 
was not to be expected in ordinary times ; and the 
Landwehr, composed of men in middle life with 
settled occupations and, for the most part, married, 
became a bad and unsound element for feeding and 
sustaining the standing army. The Prussian army, 
in fact, became divided into an assemblage of troops, 
comparatively weak in numbers and not sufficiently 
trained, and a collection of men disinclined to serve 
and discontented whenever called out. It fell far 
short of its normal strength, and was below the 
standard of other armies of the time ; and this, no 



doubt, was the real cause of the surrender of 
Olmiitz in 1850, and of the vacillation of Prussia 
during the Crimean War. 

Kinsr William, we have seen, had resolved to 
bring the Prussian ar m y out of thi s state of decline, 
and had selected M oltke j md Roon to aid him in 
the task. The work of reform began in 1859-60, 
and was carried out with admirable skill and 
forethought. The principles of the arrangements 
of 1815 were not changed in a marked degree ; 
that is, military service continued to be the possible 
obligation of all Prussians, and the army remained 
arrayed on the local system, with the exception of 
the corps d'elite of the Gruard. But the yearly 
contingent of recruits was raised from 40,000 to 
63,000 men, thus taking in a quota that ought to 
have served, and lessening what had become a 
grievance ; and the time of service was extended 
from fise^to seyen^ years, four years being the term 
in the reserve. The Landwehr was at the same 
time made a wholly separate force from the standing 
army, and it became less one of its component 
parts, than a supplement available when an occasion 
required. In this way, when the reform was com- 
plete, the standing army was increased in numbers 
from 200^00 to more than 400,000 men, and its 
military value was perhaps quadrupled, owing to 
the enlargement of the time of service, and its 
organization apart from the Landwehr. Simul- 
taneously, large supplies of material of all kinds 
were laid in and stored, and the military strength of 


Prussia was increased from 500,000 to more than 
700,000 men, taking the Landwehr but not the 
Landsturm into account. The real augmentation 
of power, however, was in the change effected in 
the standing army, which had been transformed 
from a weak, untrustworthy force into a really for- 
midable and efficient arra3\ Yet such is the force of 
routine and tradition that this extraordinary growth 
of the armed strength of Prussia did' not attract 
much attention at the time, even among the mili- 
tary states of the continent. 

The King and Roon had the principal part in 
increasing the strength of the Prussian army ; 
but Moltke was their fellow-worker, and gave ex- 
cellent advice. The staff, however, of which he 
had been made the chief, was his special province, 
and wholly his own, and it soon felt the effects of a 
master's hand. The Prussian staff, in the form it 
still retains, was a result of the partition of powers 
made between BlUcher, a hero indeed, but a soldier 
only, unlettered and rude, and Gneisenau, an able 
and scientific officer ; its chief was held to be the 
responsible counsellor of the general in command 
in the field; and it was at once permanent, and 
had much independence. It had had two chiefs' of 
a high order, Miiffling, a companion-in-arms of 
Wellington in the decisive campaign of 1815, who 
had done much to promote learning and professional 
studies of all kinds ; and Krauseneck, the real author, 
perhaps, of the great manoeuvres in peace of the 

Prussian army, if Frederick the Great had a share 

D 2 


in the honour. Moltke added to the number of his 
subordinates, superintended their education with 
incessant care, and spared no pains in selecting the 
officers ; and, in a word, steadily laboured to make 
the Prussian staff, what it has been aptly called, 
the Brain of the Army, the source and centre of its 
intellectual force. The complete instruction of the 
staff officer was naturally, indeed, an ideal sought 
by one who excelled in the learning of war ; and 
the Staff College, ultimately under Moltke's auspices, 
developed into the great " Academy of War," a 
military university of the best^Eiud^ In'Twoltnain 
particulars, the new Chief of the Staff made the 
efficiency of his department much greater than it 
had been at any previous time. Moltke accumulated 
information, exact and minute, ^ofi^the military 
resources of every state in Europe, for he had 
always an eye to the possible events of war; and 
these statistics have proved of the highest value. 
Knowing, too, how important is the study of the 
military art from recorded facts — the only means, 
indeed, through which it can be understood — he 
inaugurated the practice of compiling histories of 
the most memorable campaigns of the day, which 
has been a special task of the Prussian staff : and 
the first of the series, an account of the campaign 
of 1859, in Italy, is wholly, it is believed, from his 
pen. This admirable sketch is of a much higher 
order than the elaborate descriptions of the great 
wars of 1866 and 1870 — the composition of inferior 
men on the staff, which, as we have said, are too 


voluminous, are overloaded with petty details, and 
contain scarcely any striking comments ; and it 
is singularly characteristic of the mind of the 
author. Moltke is more of a critic than is his 
wont ; he dwells on the irresolute slowness of 
Gyulai, at the outset of the war ; and he approves 
on the whole of the well-known march, by which 
Napoleon III. turned the Austrian right, " because 
he could trust in his army and its superior strength," 
although he admits it was "hazardous in the ex- 
treme." But, as usual, he addresses himself chiefly 
to the arrangements made by both sides for war, 
and to the general conduct of the armies in the 
field. He points out essential defects in the military 
organization of France and Austria ; he dilates on 
the fatal effects of divided councils in the Austrian 
camp, and of the value of unity in advice and com- 
mand ; and, spite of apparent signs to the contrary, 
he insists that precision of fire must prevail over 
the most brilliant charges in modern battles. 

Moltke, however, was more than a Chief of the 
Staff, taking the expression even in its widest 
import. Napoleon reduced Berthier to the position 
of a clerk ; King William, conscious of Moltke's 
powers, made him virtually the head of the whole 
Prussian army. It was under his direction that 
this mighty instrument was gradually fashioned, and 
made effective to answer the uses oT modern war, 
and what he achieved must be rapidly glanced at. 
It was Moltke's great and peculiar excellence that 
he thoroughly understood, and turned to the best 


advantage, the new conditions of war evolved in his 
time, as Turenne, intent on his wars of marches, 
had increased the infantry in the armies of 
Lous XIV., as Napoleon, pre-eminent in quickness 
of movement, drew immense consequences from the 
progress of husbandry, and from the multiplication 
and improvement of roads, which had taken place 
since the days of Frederick. 

During the era of peace that came after Waterloo, 
conservatism and routine prevailed, as a rule, in 
the War Offices of every Power in Europe. In 
England, Wellington obstinately clung to the 
traditions of the Peninsular War; Soult, in France, 
followed the ways of the Empire, but weakened the 
military strength of the State ; Austria and Kussia 
carried out the ideas of the Archduke Charles, of 
Diebitsch and Paskevitch ; and the wars that were 
waged at the close of this period, were all con- 
ducted upon the methods established in the age 
of jSTapoleon. Yet during this time, and the suc- 
ceeding years, mighty forces and influences were 
making themselves felt, which were largely to 
change the order of Europe, and to affect, most 
deeply, the operations of war. The population of 
all nations greatly increased ; education had reached 
the masses, and had been widely diffused ; and the 
rude elements, therefore, of military power had 
become more ample than they had ever been while 
the intelligence and self-reliance of the classes, 
which form the chief material of armies, had been 
developed beyond all previous experience. Agri- 


culture, too, had made a rapid advance, the lines of 
ordinary roads had been much extended; the 
system of railways had spread through all lands, 
and had added immensely to the facilities of loco- 
motion already existing ; and these prodigious 
changes had made it possible, that armies should 
possess a power and an ease of movement never 
before witnessed. The age, besides, was one "of 
material knowledge, rifled cannon and the breech- 
loading musket had been invented, and were partly 
used ; and this formidable mechanism was destined 
to modify the order of battles and the whole art of 
tactics. And ere long, we should add, the great 
Civil War of America, showed on a vast scale what 
modern discoveries could effect in war ; it proved 
the uses of the electric telegraph, of the steam 
engine, and of appliances of the kind; and, 
generally speaking, it made manifest the value of 
the new inventions in operations in the field. 

Moltke's distinctive merit, we repeat, was that he 
saw through these facts, and~all thaf resulted from 
them, more clearly than most of the soldiers of the 
day, who either did not thoroughly grasp the truth, 
or stood on the old ways, behind the time. The 
Prussian army, through his assiduous efforts, was 
gradually adjusted to the new conditions. The 
later campaigns of Napoleon had shown that armies 
had become too large even for his master-hand ; 
how would it be when growing population would 
expand the armies of the existing age into far ampler 
proportions ? To avert this grave inconvenience 


Moltke arranged that the Pr ussian army should be 
divided into separate and distinct armies, each 
powerful but of manageable size, when it had 
become necessary to take the field ; and he especially 
insisted, whilejn aintaining the im portance of unity 
in supreme command, that the chiefs of th e different 
armies must enjoy a freedom of acti on and an 
independence which Napoleon's marshals never 
possessed. The progress of education again had 
increased the natural powers of the individual man ; 
and Moltke drew excellent results from this, by 
taking advantage of intelligence and skill, and, 
notably, by making the troops and their ofiicers feel 
a real sense of personal duty, and by uniting them 
in a gradation of well-planned services, so that the 
whole army presented the image of that connected 
series of defined relations to which the first ^ of 
historians ascribed the secret of the success of Sparta 
in war. As regards the improvement in the means 
of communication which was taking place, Prussia 
had given special attention to railways ; and 
Moltke laid down careful and excellent rules to 
secure that her railways and other roads should be 
readily available for the conveyance of troops, and 
for the transport of the material of war, in order 
that the assembly of her military forces and their 
movements should be made as rapid as possible. 
Moltke, we have seen, had perceived that the power 
of fire-arms would be the decisive element in 
modern battles ; and certainly he carefully studied 

^ TliucyJides. 


the effects which rifled guns and breech-loaders 
would produce.^ His conclusions, however, on 
these subjects appear to have been somewhat slowly 
formed ; and experience alone perhaps convinced 
him, that having regard to the tremendous force of 
the new artillery and small arms, the dense forma- 
tions and the compact lines of the days of his 
youth must be abandoned. From the American 
war, in which he was thoroughly versed, he drew 
information of much value as to the use of the 
electric telegraph in the field. 

The Prussian army, greatly enlarged in numbers, 
though not so perfect as it became afterwards, was 
made, through these means, a most formidable 
array, well arranged, well ordered, easily handled, 
and capable of being quickly drawn together and 
moved. It was already far the first of the armies 
of Europe ; and it should be added that the 
Prussian foot-soldier was armed with the breech- 
loading needle-gun, a weapon not employed in any 
other service, and as superior to the rifle charged 
from the muzzle, as the long bow of Orecy was to 
the Grenoese cross-bow. Not only, too, it appears 
probable, was Moltke the principal constructor of 
this mighty force, he had, perhaps, a voice in 
appointing to the chief commands in it. It is certain, 
at least, that at this time, the Prussian generals were 
able men ; and this exactly carried out a maxim, ^ on 

^ See " A Tactical Retrospect " and a " Retrospect of the Tactical 
Retrospect," the first work by a very able soldier, Captain May, 
the second by Moltke. 

'^ " Campaign of Italy in 1859," p. 8. 


whicli lie has more than once insisted, that if 
captains of the first order are seen only at wide 
intervals of time, good commanders can always be 
made forthcoming. Be this, however, as it may, 
the Prussian army under his care had the immense 
advantage of direction of a superior kind, as well 
as of an organization wholly unequalled ; and this 
was another element that made it supreme. Finally 
— and this should be carefully borne in mind — this 
vast combination of military force was prepared and 
equipped with a special view to the method of 
warfare which, Moltke knew,^ has proved to be in 
every age the best. Versed thoroughly in the history 
of war, bold, capable and firm in the extreme of 
purpose, he perfectly understood the immense value 
of the initiative in operations in the field; and he 
had made it the end of his unceasing efforts that 
the Prussian army should be always ready to take 
the offensive at the briefest notice, and to fall in 
force on an enemy at once. The local territorial 
system, it should be observed, in itself strongly 
promoted his object. 

The great instrument of power which Moltke 
had fashioned, was soon tried, if not really tested. 
It would be superfluous to notice the Danish war, a 
conflict between a petty state and two of the 
leading Powers of the Continent, the issue of which 
was never doubtful. It is disputed, indeed, ^ to what 

^ " Faites la Guerre offensive," iSTapoleon. 

' See Von Sybel, " History of the Foundation of the German 
Empire," and " Field-Marshal Von Moltke," by Von Fircks, both . 


extent Moltke planned or directed the Prussian 
movements ; superiority in command certainly does 
not appear in the repulse at Missiinde, or in the 
elaborate efforts made against the redoubts of 
Diippel. In two particulars, however, the war was 
important with reference to events in the near 
future. Moltke was present during the invasion of 
Jutland ; and he had ample opportunity to examine, 
on the spot, the working of the military system of 
Austria, and to lay to heart all that was defective 
in it. The Austrian chiefs, on the other hand, full 
of the memories of Novara and Olmiitz, seem to 
have held the army of their allies cheap, and 
especially disregarded the destructive effect of the 
formidable weapons of the Prussian infantry. 

The military power of Prussia was made clearly 
manifest, for the first time, in the great war she 
waged against Austria and the German Confedera- 
tion in 1866. On the causes of the conflict we 
cannot dwell ; they were broadly due to the long- 
standing rivalry of Austria and Prussia, as German 
powers, and especiallytoBismarck's ambitious policy, 
yet we cannot avoid a passing glance at the political 
situation evolved at the time, for it largely con- 
trolled the events of the war, and it explains' much 
that, otherwise, would be obscure. The German 
nation was strongly against a struggle, which it 
condemned as fratricidal and unwise; and the King of 
Prussia, if eager to enlarge the monarchy, and even 

cited by " Charles Malo," the nom de ■pl'ume of a distinguished 
soldier, and military critic, in his sketch of Moltke. 


zealous in the cause of German unity, had resolved 
if possible to maintain a defensive attitude, and 
not to be the first to draw the sword. On the other 
hand, Austria dreaded a rupture ; she, too, felt the 
force of German opinion ; she knew that Italy was 
a deadly enemy ; she was sinking under financial 
distress, and she trembled for the safety of her ill- 
compacted Empire. Besides, Austria and Prussia 
were both afraid of the probable armed inte^rvention 
of France, and thus the military counsels of both 
states were strongly aff'ected by the hesitation and 
delays, to be ascribed to a halting and somewhat 
timid policy. Bismarck was the one statesman 
who distinctly saw his way. 

These circumstances must be steadily kept in 
view in following the operations of the war of 1866, 
which have been the subject of a great amount of 
criticism. On the side of Prussia, Moltke laid 
down the general lines of the plans of the cam- 
paign, and certainly the resolve to oppose a weak 
force only to the ill-prepared levies of the Con- 
federate States, and to concentrate the great mass 
of the Prussian army against Austria, the only 
dangerous foe, shows much firmness of purpose 
and the clearest insight. The measures, however, 
taken to cope with Austria were, apparently, far 
from equally wise, and, indeed, they can be under- 
stood only, at the outset at least, by bearing in 
mind the considerations before referred to. Austria 
had begun to arm towards the close of March ; 
hostilities seemed about to open, though there had 


been no actual declaration of war ; and Moltke, 
there is some reason to believe, wished to assemble 
at once the main Prussian armies, to bring them 
together around Gorlitz and the adjoining Lusatian 
plains ; and having covered the approaches to the 
heart of Prussia, especially the great cities of Berlin 
and Breslau, to be ready to advance across the 
Bohemian frontier, following, probably, a single 
line of invasion. The king, however, would not 
hear of such a course as this ; he deferred the 
assembly of the Prussian armies for^weeks, as 
he was anxious not to take the offensive ; and, 
as on the assumption that he would stand on the 
defensive only, they could not find the means of 
subsistence were they kept together long within 
a contracted space, it became necessary to give 
up a project, at once daring and well conceived. 
The str^tegy_of_Molt ke was, in fa ct, baffled in this 
respect by his master's scruples.^ 

The preparations of Austria went steadily on, 
while those of Prussia were long delayed, and it 
was not until nearly the middle of May that the 
real assembly of the Prussian forces began. By 
this time, however, the occasion had been lost of 
concentrating the great mass of the Prussian army 
around Gorlitz or any other given point. In view 
of the situation it had become perhaps necessary 
to gather together, as quickly as possible, and by 

- These conclusions may, we think, be drawn from a careful 
study of the " Prussian Staff History of the War of 1866," 
chapter ii. See especially 21-29. English translation. 


every means of communication on the spot, tlie 
different parts of the armed strength of Prussia; 
this involved their distribution at wide distances, 
and, besides, the insuperable difficulty of supplies 
would increase should an attempt be made to unite 
them closely, and the king should maintain an 
attitude of defence. Moltke's arrangements were 
made to meet a position of affairs in which he was 
circumscribed and restricted, and if their strategic 
merit admits of question, they show how admirable 
had been his organizing powers. Of the nine ^ 
corps d'armee, which made up the army, eight and 
a half were opposed to Austria ; these great masses 
of men, about 260,000 strong, and all their vast 
material of war, drawn together from their different 
local centres, were moved towards Saxony and into 
Silesia by the numerous roads and railways spread- 
ing throughout Prussia ; and the celerity and 
precision of this great movement, accomplished in 
the space of three weeks only, astonished, nay, even 
alarmed Europe. Three large armies were now 
formed; the first, composed of one corps and a 
half, to be soon joined by a powerful reserve, and 
given the name of the Army of the Elbe ; the 
second, known as the First Army, for the moment 
comprising three corps, with two more not far in 
the rear ; and the third, designated as the Second 
Army; and the huge arrays, divided into three 
groups, were extended upon an immense line, from 
Torgau on the Elbe to Waldenburg and Landshut, 

' Including the Guards. 


wliere the Giant Hills mark out the Bohemian fron- 
tier. The Army of the Elbe was in the hands of 
Herwarth Bittenfield, a general of proved expe- 
rience and worth ; the First and Second were led 
by Prince Frederick Charles and the Crown Prince, 
the eldest sou of the king, both true to the martial 
traditions of their House. 

This wide dissemination of the Prussian forces, 
had Moltke's assumptions been correct, would cer- 
tainly have been extremely hazardous,^ for he 
believed that a large part of the Austrian army was 
collected at this time in Bohemia, prepared to join 
hands with its Saxon allies, and a few days, nay, 
hours, might bring forth war. From what we 
have seen, however, he had but little choice, though 
possibly he had advanced the armies too near to 
Bohemia, with a view to the bold offensive he had 
in his mind ; and in judging his strategy, we must, 
we repeat, remember the situation that had been 
made for him. All apprehensions and dangers of 
the kind were, nevertheless, without foundation, 
owing to the disposition made of the forces of 
Austria. That Power, we have seen, was averse to 
war ; the Emperor, like the King of Prussia, was 
disinclined to begin hostilities, and if Austria armed 
long before Prussia, this was caused by a belief, 
which was perfectly true, that she did not possess 
the means of assembling her armies as rapidly as 

^ "Prussian StaS History," p. 25. The writer admits, p. 18, 
that the "intelligence was very defective " concerning the Austrian 


her well-prepared rival. Her project for a cam- 
paign was strictly defensive ; the staff ^ prepared an 
elaborate plan of operations with this object only ; 
and while Prussia was drawing near the Bohemia 
passes, by far the greater part of the Austrian 
army was collected in Moravia, around Briinn and 
Olmiitz, one corps alone being in Bohemia. The 
attack, therefore, which Moltke thought not im- 
probable, and which most soldiers in Europe 
believed would be made, on the widely divided 
Prussian armies, was not possible, and was not 
even designed. 

It was not until the 11th of June that the 
positions of the main body of the Austrian army 
became certainly known in the Prussian camp. 
Silesia seemed threatened by an advance from 
Olmiitz, and, in order to guard against this danger, 
a new direction was given to the Prussian armies, 
political considerations in this respect, too,^ being, 
not improbably, without influence. The Second 
Army was strengthened by the Guards and the 
1st Corps, the two divisions which had been in- 
tended to form a part of the First Army ; and the 
Crown Prince moved to the tracts round the Neisse, 
where the river descends from its source to the 
Oder. The Army of the Elbe was left in its former 
position, but the First Army was drawn towards 

^ " Austrian Staff History," translated into French, and called 
" Les Luttes de I'Autriche, vol. i. p. 79. 

^ Austria was believed to be, and perhaps was, hankering after 
Silesia. See " Fyffe's History of Modern Europe," vol. iii. p. 367. 


the Second, extending from Niesky and Gorlitz to 
Reichenbacli and Lowenburg, along the verge of 
the Giant Hills ; the defence of Silesia, it is evident, 
being the immediate object of these movements, 
but with a view to the offensive, should an occasion 
offer. War br oke out on t he 15th of June ; there 
" was no more talk about defensive flank marches "^ 
in the Prussian councils, and the king consented 
at last to take the offensive, yielding probably to 
the advice of Moltke and Bismarck, who had given 
his voice for decisive operations from the first. 

At this juncture the three Prussian armies were 
spread along a front of about 130 miles, from the 
Middle Elbe to the Upper Neisse ; and offensive 
operations being designed, two courses only, per- 
haps, were open to Moltke. He might draw his 
forces together, within a more contracted space, 
behind the range of the Bohemian hills, on the 
verge of Saxony and in Silesia, and might then 
move into Bohemia and Saxony, making the inva- 
sion on a single line only. But, apart from other 
objections to an operation of the kind, this strategy 
would involve considerable delay; and, as the 
result, the Austrian army would have ample time 
to march into Bohemia, and, uniting with its Saxon 
supports, to fight a great battle, fully concentrated, 
in one of the strong positions, chosen by itself, 
which abound to the south of the mountain barrier. 
The alternative was to advance, at once, with the 

' " Prussian Staff History," p. 30. The tone of impatience at 
previous delays cannot be mistaken. 


three armies from where they stood ; to enter 
Saxony and Bohemia with these, on double, but con- 
verging lines of invasion ; and to unite the armies, 
as quickly as possible, at a point south of the great 
Bohemian ranges, in the hope that they would 
forestall the enemy, and join before he could pre- 
vent their junction. This operation, however, 
involved the drawing together of large masses, 
divided by wide distances, and separated by obstacles 
of all kinds, hill ranges, mountain passes, and rivers, 
and the assembling them in a hostile country, where 
the Austrians might be collected in force — a con- 
tingency by no means improbable ; and from the 
days of Turenne to those of Lee, movements of the 
kind have repeatedly proved disastrous, especially 
when an adversary is bold and skilful. 

Moltke instantly adopted the second course, 
though it is idle to suppose that he did not weigh 
the hazards, or was unaware of the undoubted 
dangers. He remained at Berlin to direct the great 
offensive movement, the electric telegraph giving 
him the means of communicating with the chiefs of 
the armies, and perhaps of lessening the risk of the 
converging march ; and he assigned Gitschin, a 
well-known spot, between the Upper Iser and the 
Upper Elbe, as the point where the junction was to 
be made. Operations now began along the im- 
mense front still occupied by the three Prussian 
armies. The Army of the Elbe, 70,000 strong, with 
its reserve, entered Saxony on the 16th of June ; 
was in possession of Dresden by the 18th ; and 


having sent detachments to its left was in com- 
munication with the First Army on the 19th and 
20th ; the two armies being now placed under the 
chief command of Prince Frederick Charles, though 
their principal divisions remained apart. The 
Prince had invaded Bohemia by the 22nd and 23rd, 
the First Army, under his immediate orders, being 
about 93,000 men ; the Army of the Elbe, reduced to 
perhaps 60,000 — for it had been necessary to leave 
some divisions in Saxony — advanced, on the right, 
in a parallel line ; and the two masses more than 
150,000 men, had reached Reichenberg and Gabel 
by the 25th, still a long march from the line 
of the Iser, where the Austrians had a part of their 

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the great field 
of manoeuvre, the Crown Prince had advanced from 
the Neisse with the Second Army, about 115,000 
strong; and having made skilful demonstrations 
to his left, in order to feign an attack on Olmiitz, 
he directed the chief part of his forces towards the 
passes which lead into Bohemia, through long 
defiles, ending at Trautenau and Nachod. On the 
25th, however, when Prince Frederick Charles had 
already approached the course of the Iser, the Crown 
Prince was still on the Bohemian frontier; and 
thus the three armies, though drawing towards each 
other, were fully seventy or eighty miles apart, and 
divided by a difficult and intricate country. Was it 
probable — for five or six days were required even if 

they had scarcely to fire a shot — that they would be 

E 2 


able to meet near, or round Gitscliin, before their 
enemy would stand in force between them ? And 
in considering these operations it deserves special 
notice that, at this moment, the exact positions of 
the Austrian army were not known. ^ 

While the Prussian armies were thus on the 
march, a broad and dangerous gap being still 
between them, the Austrian army had begun to 
move. The chief mass of that army, we have seen, 
had been placed around Briinn and Olmiitz, and it 
was in these positions on the 11th of June, but it 
broke up from its camp a few days afterwards. 
Before reviewing its operations a word must be 
said on the nature and characteristics of this impos- 
ing force, which, with the corps in Bohemia and its 
Saxon allies, was not less than 270,000 strong ; that 
is, nearly equal in numbers to the three Prussian 
armies, including the detachment leffc behind in 
Saxony. As an instrument of war it was not to be 
compared to the well-organized and efl&cient arrays, 
composed, too, of soldiers of one nation, which it 
was about to meet in the field. The cavalry, indeed, 
formed an excellent arm, and the artillery was 
better, perhaps, than the Prussian, but the infantry, 
the backbone of an army,^ was, as it has always 
been, of inferior quality. The tactics of the 

» "Prussian Staff History," 62. 

^ '^ La mauvaise iufanterie Autrichienne," Napoleon. A striking 
instance of the bad quality of the Austrian infantry is to be found 
in General Marbot's Memoirs, vol. iii. p. 273. See also Edinburgh 
Review, April, 1892. 


Austrians, too, were radically unsound ; they were 
based on the principle that determined charges 
would get the better of effective fire ; the troops 
were marshalled in too close formations, and, above 
all, they were armed with the muzzle-loading rifle, 
and did not possess the deadly needle-gun. Nor 
were the Austrian commanders to be even named 
with their able and thoroughly trained antagonists. 
The general-in-chief, Benedek, was a stout soldier, 
of the school of Daun, famous in Austrian history ; 
but he had no capacity for the higher parts of war ; 
and he was unfortunately matched against such a 
man as Moltke. Few of his subordinates, too, were 
capable men ; and the staff, though numbering 
some good officers, was rather behind the require- 
ments of the age. If we add — most important, per- 
haps, of all — that the Austrian army was largely 
made up of troops of different races, which disliked 
their rulers, we shall see how unfit it was to cope 
with its enemy. 

Benedek, who had been given a free hand, had 
reached Olmiitz in the first days of June, and his 
purpose seems to have been to take the offensive, 
and to abandon the defensive projects of the 
Austrian staff. He wished, however, not to- begin 
hostilities until the contingents of the Confederate 
Powers were, in some measure, ready to afford him 
aid ; and, in any event, his intention was not to 
take the field until the 20th of June. Nevertheless, 
having been ^ apprised by the telegraph that war 
"Luttes de TAutriche," vol. iii. p. 10. 


had been declared on the 15tli, and that it was of 
great importance to move at once, he set his army 
in motion on the 17th of June; his object being to 
enter Bohemia, and to find a favourable oppor- 
tunity to attack the enemy. By this time the Saxon 
army, about 25,000 strong, had retreated before 
the Prussian invasion ; and ere long it had joined 
the single Austrian corps which, we have seen, had 
been in Bohemia for weeks. Benedek ordered the 
chiefs of the united bodies, from 55,000 to 60,000 
men, to stand firmly on the Upper Iser, between 
Jung Bunzlau and Munchengratz, and to make head 
against the advancing Prussians; and with the 
remaining six corps of his army, considerably more 
than 200,000 men, he broke up from around Briinn 
and Olmiitz, directing the troops by parallel roads 
and much of his material along the lines of rail- 
way which reach Bomisch Triibau from these places, 
and formed a single line as they approached the 
Elbe. The object of these operations was to attain 
the table-land between the Iser and the Elbe, which, 
protected to the east by the two fortresses of 
Josephstadt and Koniggratz, extends westward to 
near Jung Bunzlau and Munchengratz, a region 
rendered memorable in 1778 by the successful 
resistance made by Loudon and Lacy to all the 
efforts of Frederick the Great. Holding this tract 
in force, Benedek hoped to be able to interpose 
between the hostile armies, to attack, and to defeat 
them in detail ; and his intention was to direct his 
efforts, first against the army of Prince Frederick 


Charles, and having fallen on this in superior 
strength, to turn against the army of the Crown 
Prince, and to strike it down as it emerged from 
the passes of Bohemia in very inferior numbers. 
This plan was perfectly right in principle, and had 
it been carried out the Austrian chief would have 
held a central position between divided foes, and 
interior lines on the scene of the contest; he would, 
in fact, have had the same points of vantage as 
JSTapoleon possessed in 1796, when army after army 
succumbed to his strokes, in operations still perhaps 
unrivalled, as his enemies converged in double and 
separate lines towards his formidable lair, round 
Mantua and the Adige. 

Had Benedek been a great captain, had he made 
use of the ordinary means employed to keep back 
an enemy on the march, and had his army been 
thoroughly prepared, he probably would have 
attained his end. The telegraph had kept him 
aware of the Prussian movements,^ especially of 
those of the Crown Prince; he had to traverse a 
distance of about a hundred miles only, going back 
even to his corps in the rear ; and he might, 
with proper arrangements, have reached the posi- 
tions he had in view, by the 28th or 29th of June, 
interposing between the hostile armies, who should 
have been retarded on their way. But he gave no 
orders to Clam Gallas,^ the leader of his corps on 

^ " Luttes de I'Autriclie," vol. iii. p. 25. 

* Clam Gallas, however, ought to have taken these measures of 
his own accord, and without waiting for command from his 


the Tser, or to the Crown Prince, the chief of the 
Saxon forces, to break np roads, to destroy rail- 
ways, or generally to impede the advance of the 
enemy ; he directed them only to stand on the Iser ; 
and,^ especially, he did not push forward troops to 
occupy the Bohemian passes, to obstruct, and to 
bar the defiles, and so to check the Crown Prince's 
columns, as they moved from the Silesian frontier. 
His movements too, were unsteady and slow ; the 
soldiers were harassed by conflicting orders ; the 
arrangements for procuring supplies were defective ; 
and, in short, his army was feebly directed, and 
was unable to march with anything like celerity. 

superior. That lie did not, shows the difference in capacity and 
intelligence between the Austrian and Prussian generals. See 
" Great Campaigns," by Major C. Adams, p. 445 — an able work, 
but somewhat deficient in accuracy, and too much of an apology 
for Benedek. 

^ This is well pointed out by the Austrian staff, which has 
fairly described the position of affairs, and what ought to have 
been done at this critical juncture : " Luttes de I'Autriche," 
vol. iii. p. 15. "Si au lieu d'attendre jusqu'au dernier moment 
en avait fait partir, par exemple, les 4* et 8" corps un ou deux 
jours plustot ; si le 2^ corps stationne a Landskron, qui etait le 
plus rapproche de Josephstadt, avait commence le mouvement, 
au lieu de le fermer, la concentration de I'armee autour de cette 
ville eilt etc effectuee quelques jours plustot. Si, enfin, on avait 
envoye rapidement en Boheme, par le chemin de fer, quelques 
brigades d'infanterie avec la mission d'observer et de rendre im- 
practicables les defiles de la frontiere prussienne, en eut, sinon 
empech^, au moins retarde le debouche des colonnes de la 11' 
armee, ce qui eut permis de diriger la plupart des corps autrichiens 
centre I'armee du prince Frederic Charles, et de lecraser par des 
forces superieures. Ces d fferentes mesures de precaution etaient 
parfaitement indiquees." 


As the general result, the Austrian army had not 
approached the positions sought by its chief — the 
table-land between the Iser and the Elbe — until it 
■was, perhaps, too late; and as the march of the 
Prussians had not been thwarted by precautions 
even of the most obvious kind, Prince Frederick 
Charles, we have seen, had drawn near the Iser, 
ready to advance, by the 25th of June, the Crown 
Prince, however, being still distant. In these cir- 
cumstances, the Austrian leader — though this has 
been the subject of much controversy — ought, we 
think, to have abandoned his project ; he was still 
four or five marches, at the rate of his movements, 
from the points he had intended to hold; and if 
he made an attempt to occupy these, he ran the 
risk of being wedged in, between the foes con- 
verging against him, and of meeting the fate of 
Napoleon at Leipzig. Yet, though he had been 
baffled to this extent, one of the best opportunities 
ever presented to a real general was now offered 
to him. By the 26th of June, the great mass of 
his forces was concentrated, on either bank of the 
Elbe, round Josephstadt, Koniggriitz, Opocno, 
and Tynist, and at a short distance from the 
Bohemian frontier ; and, if Prince Frederick 
Charles was close to the Iser, the Crown Prince 
had not even entered the passes, which lead from 
Silesia into Bohemia, his army too being widely 
scattered, and extended upon a very broad front. 
Had Benedek, therefore, who, we repeat, had been 
kept informed of the enemy's movements, drawn in 


his corps from tlie Iser one march, only, and 
directed the principal part of his army towards 
Trautenau and Nachod, where the defiles nearly 
end, and meet the Bohemian plains, he would have 
opposed ^ an overwhelming force to any the Crown 
Prince could bring against him, and might perhaps 
have gained important success. In that event he 
would have had ample time to turn in full strength 
against Prince Frederick Charles, and to attack 
him with largely superior numbers. He was 
already, in fact, in the central position, which it 
had been, from the first, his object to gain, and in 
possession of interior lines ; and, had he known 
how to turn this advantage to account, we shall 

^ This is well indicated by the Austrian staff. " Luttes de 
Autriche," vol. iii. p. 49 : " De I'ensemble de tons ces rapports il 
etait aise de conclure dans la soiree du 26, que la IP armee 
prussienne netarderait pas a entrer en Boheme, et qu'elle s'avan- 
cait en trois colonnes fort eloignees les unes des autres. D'un 
autre cote, il est incontestable qu'il etait non seulement possible, 

mais facile d'opposer a I'ennemi : d'abord le 4* corps puis 

le 10^ corps en troisieme lieu, le 6* corps en- 
suite les 3" et 8^ corps enfin le 2^ corps et la 2* division 

de cavalerie legere." The " Prussian Staff History " practically 
arrives at the same conclusion, and the following is probably from 
the hand of Moltke himself : " Now that all is over, anyone may 
say that the best plan would have been to have fallen with all 
force on the 11 Army debouching from the mountains." The 
writer, however, expresses a belief that the march of the Crown 
Prince was not known to Benedek, but this is positively denied 
by the Austrian staff, which was in possession of the facts, 
p. 48. Major Adams adopts the view that Benedek was not aware 
of the movements of the Crown Prince, but significantly observes, 
p. 415 : *' Had Benedek known what the Crown Prince was about 
to undertake, he might have punished him." 


not say, so inferior his army was, that he would 
have completely beaten his enemy, but probably he 
would have made the invasion collapse. 

Unhappily for Austria the chief she had chosen 
had none of the gifts of a great commander. To 
make effective use of a central position, such as 
that which Benedek actually had, and of the in- 
terior lines on which he was placed, requires 
promptitude, decision, boldness, insight, and 
especially power to seize the occasion ; and Benedek 
did not possess these qualities. A gallant soldier, 
he was no strategist ; and if tenacious and stubborn 
in a high degree, he was obstinate, very slow of 
perception, and essentially a man of fixed ideas, 
who will not recede from a settled purpose. Though 
the opportunity had, we are convinced, been lost, 
he persisted in carrying out his original design, and 
in endeavouring to place his army on the table-land 
between the Iser and the Elbe, in the hope of strik- 
ing Prince Frederick Charles ; and as he did not 
interpret the facts correctly, he committed himself 
to a whole series of false, erroneous, and disastrous 
movements. Instead of drawing Clam Gallas and 
the Saxons towards himself, he left them isolated 
on the Iser, a much stronger enemy being already 
at hand ; and, instead of concentrating, as he might 
have done, a very superior force against the Crown 
Prince, he turned aside the corps, which would have 
served his purpose, believing that he could attack 
Prince Frederick Charles with effect. At the same 
time, having been made aware that the Crown 


Prince was advancing in force, and was approaching 
the Bohemian passes, he sent a detachment to hold 
him in check ; but this consisted of two corps only, 
inadequate to resist a whole army. Clam Gallas and 
the Saxons thus remained exposed to the First Army 
and the Army of Elbe ; the great mass of the 
Austrian army was directed to positions which it 
could not reach in time to paralyze Prince Frederick 
Charles, and was diverted from the enemy it might 
have beaten, the Second Army of the Crown Prince ; 
and a fraction only of Benedek's forces was marched 
against the Crown Prince with his 115,000 men/ 
The distribution, in a word, of the Austrian army 
was fatally erroneous at every point ; weak bodies 
were opposed, on either wing, to enemies immensely 
greater in strength ; and the main force, in the 
centre, was engaged, far from its supports, in a 
hopeless task. In these circumstances all the 
advantage of its central position and interior 
lines was thrown away, and had even become a 

The results of Benedek's false operations were 
soon developed with astounding quickness. Clam 
Gallas was attacked on the 26th of June by the 

^ "Luttes de I'Autriche," vol. iii. p. 26: "Dans les derniers 
jours, au moment decisif, alors qu'il n'y avait pas une lieure a 
perdre, le commandant-en-chef ordonne, d'un cote au prince royal 
de Saxe une chose impossible ; se tenir sur I'lser contre des 
forces tres superieures; et, de I'autre, il envoie des corps, isoles 
se faire battre successivement, et isolement sur la rive gauche 
de I'Elbe. Ces mesures devaient necessairement avoir des con- 
sequences desastreuses, car elles detruisirent et la cohesion et 
le moral de I'armee." 


First Army, and driven across the Iser ; and the 
blow was followed by blows in rapid succession. 
The Prussians had crossed the Iser by the 27th ; 
and Prince Frederick Charles, turning away from 
Gitschin — the point where the armies were to meet ^ 
— conduct which has exposed him to some censure — 
fell in force, at Munch engratz, on the 28th, on the 
combined Austrian and Saxon corps, and defeated 
them with considerable loss. The Prince now made 
for Gitschin, and again routed his enemy completely 
on the 29th, Clam Gallas and the Saxons falling 
back towards the main Austrian army, in a pre- 
cipitate retreat. Through these engagements, the 
advanced columns of the First Army and of the Army 
of the Elbe had reached the appointed place of 
junction ; and the isolated wing of the Austrian 
army had been cruelly stricken and half de- 
stroyed, the main body, still at a great distance, 
not being able to give it support. 

Meantime, on the opposite scene of the conflict, 
the Crown Prince had got through the defiles of the 
hills, making for Trautenau and Nachod by the 
roads, which traverse the passes into Bohemia, and 
the results to Austria had been even more disastrous. 
One of the two corps, indeed, which had been sent 
by Benedek to check the progress of the Crown 
Prince, defeated and drove back a Prussian corps at 
Trautenau, on the 27th of June ; but this repulse was 
avenged by the Prussian Guards, who routed their 
enemy, at Soor, on the 28th. Simultaneously the 
* " Great Campaigns," p. 410. 


other Austrian corps had been shattered to pieces, 
at Nachod, on the 27th; and a third corps, hurried 
up to afford it aid, and misdirected in every way, 
was involved at Skalitz in a terrible defeat. The 
second wing of the Austrian army, divided from 
the main body, like the first, and, like it, too weak to 
resist the enemy, had been driven in, and almost 
crushed ; and Benedek, with the mass of his forces, 
unable to reach his adversaries at any point, and 
to strike a single blow with effect, stood impotent 
in the centre, looking on, so to speak, at the 
annihilation of powerful arrays, which, if properly 
directed, might have accomplished much. 

In this series of conflicts the Austrians lost from 
30,000 to 40,000 men, the Prussians probably not 
10,000. The result was due, in the first instance, 
to the fatal mistakes made by the Austrian chief, 
who not only let a grand opportunity slip, but, in 
his subsequent operations, did almost everything 
which ought not to have been done, as affairs stood. 
"What indeed can be said to excuse a commander, 
who, in the presence of enemies gathering round 
him, exposes the forces he had detached to be 
beaten in detail, and persists in making the mass 
of his army powerless, but that he was the counter- 
part of the unskilful boxer, who, in the words of 
the G-reek orator, was always too late to stop his 
adversary's blows ? Yet other and potent causes 
concurred to make the defeats of the Austrians so 
complete and disastrous. The Austrian generals 
did not act well in concert, and Benedek had much 


reason to complain of more tlian one of his lieu- 
tenants in command, especially on the Iser, and 
after Nachod. The Austrian soldiery, too, in vain 
endeavoured to oppose the bayonet charge to the 
fire of the Prussians, and they literally withered 
away under the destructive effects of a weapon to 
which they had little to oppose. It should be added 
that they had been taught by their officers to 
despise their enemy, and when they discovered 
what the Prussians were in the field, false confidence 
was replaced by abject despair, and they easily 
broke up into hordes of fugitives. An immense 
number, besides, of unwounded prisoners fell i"nto 
the hands of the victorious Prussians, and this 
distinctly shows that a large part of the army, that 
composed of Hungarian and Slavonic elements, 
not to speak of the rebellious Italians,^ had no 
heart in the cause of the Empire. As for the con- 
duct of the Prussian commanders, Prince Frederick 
Charles has been blamed for not making for 
Gitschin at once, and his movements were by no 
means rapid. But the Crown Prince gave proof of 
remarkable skill in these operations from first to 
last, and it may generally be said that the Prussian 
chiefs admirably carried out a very difficult pl-an ; 
co-operated heartily with each other, and showed 

* Soldiers, however disloyal their nationality may be, will 
usually be true to their standards, as long as success attends 
them. But soldiers of this kind always show their natural 
tendencies in the hour of defeat. The Germans, who followed 
Napoleon in 1807, 9, 10, rose against him in 1812 13. 


that they had that sense of duty and that readiness 
to act and think for themselves, which were due in 
some measure, doubtless, to Moltke's training. The 
Prussian army was as superior to the Austrian in 
organization and military worth, as its infantry 
was in destructive fire, and this difference alone 
was almost decisive. 

The successive defeats of the hostile corps, sent 
against him in inadequate strength, and ending in 
the terrible reverse at Skalitz, had enabled the 
Crown Prince to march into Bohemia, and to ad- 
vance in triumph to the Upper Elbe. Ere long 
Moltke and King William had hastened from Berlin 
to the theatre of war, and the Prussian armies were 
directed by Moltke on the spot. So complete was 
the prostration of the Austrian army that the Crown 
Prince could, without difficulty, have joined Prince 
Frederick Charles at Gitschin, and the united armies 
might have borne down on the enemy in irresistible 
strength. Moltke, however, deliberately kept the 
Prussian armies apart at a distance of more than 
twenty miles ; this, he believed, would give them 
more freedom of action, and Benedek^ had perhaps no 
longer the power to thrust himself between them. 
By the 30th of June, Prince Frederick Charles and 
the Crown Prince were advancing, in separate masses, 
to the Elbe, and the beaten Austrian army, its 
wings shattered, and its centre sharing the contagion 
of defeat, was falling back in confused fragments, 
which, however, had nearly effected their junction. 
' « Prussian Staff History," 157. 


It still stood between divided enemies, but apart 
from the question whether it had sufficient space to 
endeavour to strike at its foes in succession, it was 
so disheartened, injured and broken-down,^ that an 
attempt of the kind would, perhaps, have been fatal. 
Nevertheless a gap remained open between the 
enemies in its front f good judges have thought 
that the Austrian leader had still a last chance to 
strike with effect, and possibly a man of genius, like 
the youthful Bonaparte, who, before Areola, was in 
a plight, apparently as desperate as that of Benedek, 
might, at the last hour, have plucked safety, nay 
success, from danger. But Benedek had neither 
inspiration nor resource ; merely a tenacious soldier, 
his only thought was to make a determined stand, 
and to fight a defensive battle, in a strong position, 
for the honour of his master's arms, but with 
scarcely a hope of victory. Drawing in his shattered 
forces on all sides, with a steadiness and skill which 
has been justly praised, he retreated slowly behind 
the Bistritz, an affluent of the Upper Elbe ; the 
veteran stood stubbornly here to bay. 

1 " Luttes de I'Autriche," vol. iii. p. 163. 

^ Lecomte : "La Guerre de la Prusse et de I'ltalie centre 
I'Autriche, et la Confederation Germanique," vol, i. pp. 365-6. 
This distinguished veteran was sometime the first aide-de-camp of 
Jomini, and is almost the last living link between the Xapoleonic 
wars and those of this age. He is a scientific and admirable 
military critic. 


The Battle of Sadowa or Koniggratz — Complete victory of the 
Prussian armies — Retreat of Benedek — The Prussians march 
to the Danube — The Treaty of Prague — Reflections on the 
conduct of the war, and especially on the strategy and tactics 
of Moltke and the Prussian leaders. 

While Benedek was retreating behind the Bistritz, 
the Prussian armies advanced slowly, scarcely 
pressing the beaten enemy, as he fell back. This 
was a marked feature of Moltke' s strategy, very 
different from the conquering march of Napoleon, 
which we shall see over and over again, and con- 
tact with the Austrian army was lost. It was 
believed in the Prussian camp, on the 2nd July, that 
the Austrians had retired beyond the Elbe, and were 
in position, resting on either flank, on the fortresses 
of Josepbstadt and Koniggratz, and Moltke's in- 
tention was to reconnoitre in force, and either to 
attack the enemy, where it was supposed he stood, 
or to turn his left wing by a march on Pardubitz, 
In the afternoon, however, it was ascertained that 
a considerable part of the Austrian army was at 
hand, having fallen back behind the Bistritz, but 
not the Elbe ; and Prince Frederick Charles, with 
characteristic daring, determined to assail his foe at 
once, with the First Army, and that of the Elbe, 
which had been for some time nearly in line with him. 


As, however, it might turn out that Benedek 
would be in largely superior force, the Prince sent 
a message to the Crown Prince now at Konighinhof 
— about twelve miles distant — for the Prussian 
armies had gradually approached each other, re- 
questing the assistance of one corps at least ; and 
the Chief of his Staff was dispatched to Gitschin, 
the general head-quarters of all the Prussian armies, 
to inform the King and Moltke of the intelligence 
that had been obtained, and of the purpose that 
had been already formed. Moltke' s decision was 
marked by the boldness and insight which almost 
always marked his resolves in war. The project of 
Prince Frederick Charles was a half measure only, 
and Moltke sent a message to the Crown Prince to 
march at once, not with a single corps, to co-operate 
with his colleague as had been proposed, but 
drawing together the whole of his forces, to fall on 
the flank of Benedek on the right, and to over- 
whelm him with the three united armies. The 
order carried by a single officer,^ immense as were 
the issues depending on it, was not, however, dis- 
patched until midnight ; ^ Konighinhof was more 
than twenty miles from Gitschin ; the Second Army, 

1 To have sent this order by one messenger was a clear mistake, 
and it is surprising it was made by the Prussian staff. Mistakes 
of the kind, however, were repeatedly made by Berthier in the 
wars of Xapoleon, atid were twice made by Soult on occasions of 
supreme importance in the campaign of 1815. 

^ There was no telegraphic communication between the Prussian 
armies at this moment. See Hamley's " Operations of "War," 
p. 213. Ed. 1889. 

F 2 


widely divided, was still, for the most part, beyond 
the Elbe, and at distances of from ten to twelve 
miles from the positions of Benedek near the 
Bistritz ; the Elbe would have to be crossed to 
reach the enemy ; and heavy rains and continued 
bad weather had broken up the roads, and flooded 
the plains. Was it probable, in the face of difficul- 
ties like these, that the Crown Prince would attain 
the field in time, and be able to complete the de- 
cisive movement, before his colleague, doubtless 
exposed to very superior forces, would have perhaps 
succumbed? Would the heir of Prussia achieve 
what had been achieved by Bliicher, in his celebrated 
march from Wavre to Waterloo, or would he fail, 
hke the Archduke John at Wagram, not to refer to 
many other instances, to reach the First Army until 
it was too late ? 

While the operations of the Prussians were being 
matured, Benedek was making preparations for a 
great defensive battle. The aspect of his stricken 
and desponding soldiery, as they defiled under his 
eye on their way to the Bistritz, had shaken for a 
time the resolve he had formed to await the enemy's 
attack in a strong position, and he had entreated 
the Emperor in a telegraphic message, an expression 
of a mind that had begun to despair, " to make 
peace in order to avert a catastrophe." By degrees 
however, his firmness, in part, returned ; his master 
had bade him to fight stubbornly on ; he had got 
rid of Clam Gallas ^ and other lieutenants, who had 

' Clara Gallas is a name well known in the military annals of 

Poaitian of the. two Armies 
aXZ o'c pm. 

Austrians I I 

Prussutn£ ..._■■ 

.. •■-,., „ .:ohii •ljn.;,--'.ii.l u-oli i- Um.U-i 


proved themselves to be incapable men ; his troops, 
after a day of repose, had, in some measure, taken 
heart again, and he returned to his original design, 
to stand behind the Bistritz and to strike hard for 
Austria. Nevertheless he hesitated and lost pre- 
cious hours ; at a Council of War held on the 2ad 
July he did not utter a syllable to his subordinates 
to indicate ^ the decision he had formed, and it was 
far in the night before he declared his intentions, 
and gave orders for a great and decisive battle. 
This delay was in many respects unfortunate, if 
it had little to do, probably, with the final issue of 

The note of preparation had sounded in the 
Austrian camp by the early dawn of the 3rd of 
July. The bivouacs were astir, with great masses 
of men seen dimly in the light of the dying watch- 
fires, and the sullen rumble of guns and trains in 
motion gave token of the impending conflict. The 
position in which Benedek was taking his stand 
may be briefly described as a huge oblong square, 
extending between the Elbe and the Bistritz, rising 
in the space between into ranges of uplands, here 
and there forming well-marked heights, and dotted 
all over with woods and hamlets. The Bistritz 
covered a large part of the Austrian front, dividing 
it from the First Army and the Army of the Elbe; 
the Trotinka, another feeder of the Elbe, ran along 

Austria since the Tliirty Years' War, The representative of the 
House, in 1866, had also done badly in Italy in 1859. 
' "Les Luttes de I'Autriche," vol. iii. pp. 174-5. 


part of the Austrian riglit, in the direction of the 
army of the Crown Prince ; the interval between 
the two streams was filled by eminences containing 
the points of Horenowes, Maslowed, and Cistowes ; 
and the Elbe — bridged, however, at different places 
to afford an army the means of retreat — flowed 
behind the Austrian rear by Koniggratz. Benedek's 
army, about 210,000 strong, including some 24,000 
cavalry and 770 guns, and made up of eight corps, 
comprising the Saxons, was so placed as to fill 
nearly the whole square, which, in some respects, 
formed a good position of defence. On the left the 
Saxons, with the 8th corps in the rear, held the 
rising grounds round Problus in force, throwing 
detachments to the course of the Bistritz, at the 
village of Nechanitz and thence to Lubno. At 
the centre, occupied in great strength, spread the 
masses of the 10th and 3rd corps, with outposts 
advancing to the Bistritz, the main body gathering 
around the heights of Lipa, and especially of Chlum, 
this last commanding the whole scene around, and 
it guarded, besides, in imposing force, the broad 
main road, which, running from Koniggratz, 
approached, near Sadowa, the enemy's vedettes 
and almost divided the Austrian lines. The right 
of Benedek was formed by the 4th and the 2nd 
corps, but owing to delays and obscure orders these 
parts of the army were thrown more forward than 
the Austrian leader had intended; they held 
Horenowes and part of the adjoining tract, between 
the Trotinka and the Bistritz ; and the Austrian 


right flank was protected by a small force only from 
the projected attack of the Crown Prince's army. 
The 6th and the Ist corps, and the great mass of 
the cavalry, were held towards the extreme rear, in 
reserve, extending from near Koniggratz and 
touching the centre, and at different parts of the 
position, as a whole, a few earthworks had been 
hastily thrown up, in order to check the enemy's 
progress. The artillery was ranged in formidable 
tiers of guns at every favourable point of vantage, 
especially along the heights at the centre ; trees 
were cut down and cleared to give play to its fire, 
and farmhouses and villages had here and there 
been fortified to strengthen and increase the means 
of defence. 

The arrangements of Benedek, taken altogether, 
were in many particulars very defective. He must 
have known that the Crown Prince's army was 
menacing his right at no great distance, and that 
an attack from this side was possible, but he made 
no preparations to resist such an effort, and he 
left his right flank almost uncovered, even if his 
4th and his 2nd corps had advanced further than 
he had originally designed. He evidently thought 
that he would have to cope only with the First 
Army and the Army of the Elbe, but, considering 
the situation even from this point of view, mis- 
taken and deceptive as it was, his dispositions were 
far from judicious. His army was drawn up for a 
passive defence only, a system of tactics radically 
bad, and it was not arranged with skill and 


intelligence npon this faulty and perilous system. 
The line of the Bistritz was not turned to account, 
though it formed in places a strong obstacle, for it 
was guarded by weak detachments only ; the army 
was crowded into a relatively narrow space, where 
it had not sufficient freedom of action ; the centre 
presented a convex front that exposed it terribly to 
a converging fire, and its masses were so huddled 
together that bold attacks might lead to confusion 
and ruin. The reserve, besides, was by far too 
large, and — a common defect in Austrian tactics — 
the cavalry, instead of covering the wings, and 
being enabled to exhibit its powers, was collected 
in the rear and almost paralyzed, except in the 
case of eventual defeat. The army, in a word, was 
ill-ordered, even for a purely defensive battle ; but 
it is unnecessary to say — a truth proved by number- 
less examples in all ages — that it should have been 
so arranged as to possess the means of readily 
making counter attacks, and of taking the offensive 
in defending itself. And, above all, it must be 
borne in mind that nothing or nearly nothing was 
done to guard against the great force of the Grown 

The three Prussian armies, should they once 
unite, would form a mass somewhat superior in 
numbers— 200,000 footmen, perhaps, 30,000 horse- 
men, and about 790 guns — and infinitely superior 
in real force to the hostile army arrayed against 
them. The Crown Prince, however, was nearly a 
march distant, a river and a difficult country i-H,his 



way ; the First Army and the Army of the Elbe 
did not exceed 124,000 men, with from 300 to 400 
guns, and for hours this would be the only force 
to be opposed to an army nearly double in size. 
Yet Prince Frederick Charles did not hesitate to 
attack; and at about seven in the morning,^ the 
2nd and 4th corps of the First Army, the 3rd 
being in reserve, and almost the whole of the Army 
of the Elbe had drawn near the line of the Bistritz. 
The Austrian outposts and other detachments fell 
back before the advancing enemy, abandoning 
important points of vantage, and the stream was 
mastered after 8 a.m. by three divisions of the First 
Army. These troops boldly pressed forward against 
the Austrian main line, and, making some impres- 
sion on the 10th and 3rd corps, gained ground in 
front of the enemy's centre, but they were crushed 
by th'e fire of the powerful batteries accumulated 
round the hostile position, which their weaker 
artillery could not subdue ; and though there was 
not a thought of retreat, they were brought to a 
standstill and made no progress. Meanwhile, on 
their right the Army of the Elbe had been detained 
for hours in crossing the Bistritz, for though the 
Saxons did not defend the river, wide and flooded 
marshes spread around Nechanitz, and the passage 
was by a single defile ; and here, too, the Prussian 
advance was arrested. And, on the opposite side, 

^ The " Prussian Staff History " reckons the First Army and 
the Army of the Elbe by divisions, but, for the sake of clearness 
in the narrative, we have adhered to the enumeration by corps. 


to the Prussian left, the turn of events seemed even 
less prosperous. A single division of the First 
Army — the 7th, and its chief, Fransecky, deserve to 
be named — had achieved important success at first, 
and had nearly cut its way to the Austrian centre, 
but it was overwhelmed by the masses of guns on 
the spot, and by the efforts of the 4th and the 2nd 
Austrian corps, which drove it, struggling to the last, 
backward, and its position had become so critical 
that Prince Frederick Charles was compelled to send 
nearly his whole reserve to afford it support. It 
seemed probable, too, that even this addition of 
force would be unable to stem the advancing 
enemy, and to restore, at this point, the Prince's 

It was now past eleven, and the scales of Fortune 
appeared to incline against the two Prussian armies. 
The divisions in the centre barely held their ground, 
and were perishing under a destructive fire ; the 
Army of the Elbe was kept back on the Bistritz, 
and the 7th division had almost succumbed. The 
superiority of numbers had, in fact, told ; though 
not defended as they ought to have been, the 
approaches to the Austrian positions had been 
difficult to force ; the Austrian artillery had done 
great things, and the needle-gun had been unable 
to produce its effects amidst the woodlands and 
other obstacles which covered large parts of the 
Austrian front. The Austrian army, in short, was 
as yet unshaken; more than one of Benedek's 
highest officers entreated him to assume the offen- 


sive;^ the project was seriously discussed round the 
commander-in-chief ; and it will always remain ^ a 
grave question whether, at this crisis, a determined 
attack made by the mass of the 10th, the 3rd, the 
4th, and the 2nd corps, against the thin and en- 
feebled Prussian centre, might not have been 
attended with success. Even if we conclude that 
in the presence of the enemies about to appear in 
the field, an effort of the kind would have ultimately 
failed, the First Army might have been driven back, 
and, in that event, the course of the battle would 
have probably taken a different turn. It is certain 
at least that serious alarm prevailed for a time in 
the Prussian camp ; anxious eyes were turned to 
scan the horizon and to endeavour to descry the 
Crown Prince's columns, and officer after officer 
was despatched to the left to accelerate the advance 
of the Second Army. Time, however, passed, and 
there was no sign of the necessary and eagerly- 
hoped-for relief ; and meanwhile a tempest of shot 
and shell was ravaging the dwindling Prussian 
ranks, and the enemy was thought to be preparing 

' "Luttes de I'Autriche," vol. iii. pp. 210-12. 

2 The " Prussian Staff History," pp. 205-6, admits that the 7th 
division ** was in very great danger," but insists that a general 
Austrian attack would have been disastrous. The Austrian staff, 
" Luttes de I'Autriche/' vol. iii. p. 210, it is fair to add, concurs in 
this view. But see, on the other side. General Derrecagaix's 
" La Guerre Moderne," vol. ii. p. 269, a very able work. His words 
are significant : " Vers le milieu du jour I'avantage appartenait 
aux Autrichiens; il n'y avait plus qu'a prononcer un effort decisif, 
et le succes semblait certain." 


a orrand attack. Yet Moltke's confidence was never 
disturbed, his combinations he felt assured would 
succeed ; he awaited calmly the coming of the 
Second Army which, he was convinced, would be on 
the field in time ; and, in reply to an earnest 
question of the King, simply said,^ " Your Majesty 
will win to-day, not only the battle but the cam- 

At the prospect of success which seemed at hand, 
the Austrians had felt hope and pride revive, and 
Benedek was greeted with enthusiastic cheers by 
the soldiery as he rode towards the front. The 
Austrian chief, however, had lost the occasion, if 
he had a favourable chance of attacking, and before 
noon the heads of the Crown Prince's columns 
were seen advancing and threatening his right. 
The telegraph had informed Benedek that the 
Second Army was upon the march,^ but he gave 
little attention to the report, and the advent of the 
new enemy seems to have taken him by surprise. 
The Crown Prince had set his army in motion at 
between 7 and 8 a.m. ; he had effected the passage 
of the Elbe, and his troops, marching with speed 
and ardour, had overcome the obstacles in their 
way, and were now advancing towards the tract 
that spreads between the Trotinka and the Bistritz. 

1 Moltke on the Battle of Koniggratz, United Service 
Magazine, Dec. 1891, p. 443. Moltke's only answer to Bismarck, 
who was in a state of passionate excitement, for he had staked 
everything on the war, was an offer of a cigar. 

' *' Luttes de I'Autriche," vol. iii. p. 234. 


Benedek hastily recalled the 4th and 2nd corps — 
these had been thrown too forward, we have seen, 
from the first, and had recently pressed still more 
onward against Fransecky's shattered division — 
and ordered them to confront the Second Army ; 
but the message, unfortunately, arrived too late. 
The Prussian Guards, seizing the opportunity at 
once, had reached the Austrian positions with ex- 
treme celerity ; bad taken possession of the hills 
of Horenowes, which had been left almost without 
defence, and had soon swept with their batteries 
the plains beyond as far as Cistowes and Maslowed. 
The 4th and 2nd corps were thus forced to make 
the retrograde movement, exposing their flanks to 
a terrible storm of deadly missiles, and the 4th 
corps, inclining to the right, retreated upon the 
Austrian centre, while the 2nd corps assailed by 
the 6th of the Prussians, the left wing of the 
Second Army, which had passed the Trotinka, was 
scattered in flight, and with difficulty attained the 

Ere long misfortunes, in quick succession, fell 
on the imperilled and, even now, doomed army. 
Owing partly to the retreat of the 4th and 2nd 
corps, and partly to the confusion of the strife, the 
dominant height of Chlum in the centre had been 
left for a time ill-guarded, and, taking advantage 
of a fog on the plain, the Prussian Guards pressed 
forward and had soon seized Chlum, the key of the 
whole position of their foes. Benedek, who, hither- 
to had seemed unaware of the manifold perils 

78 • MOLTKE. 

gathering aroimd, now really alarmed, moved his 
6th corps in reserve against the audacious Guards ; 
Chlum and the heights vrere taken by the Austrians 
again, but before long Prussian reinforcements came 
up, and the 6th corps was almost destroyed, the 
needle-gun doing prodigious havoc. Meanwhile, 
on the opposite side of the battle, defeat had 
lowered on the Austrian banners. The Army of 
the Elbe having at last succeeded in crossing the 
Bistritz, had attacked the Saxons, and its com- 
mander skilfully turning his enemy's left, had, 
despite the efforts of the 8th corps in the rear, 
forced the whole wing back in precipitate retreat. 

The great Austrian army might now be com- 
pared to a huge sea animal, hemmed in on all sides, 
by assailants plying their deadly harpoons. The 
right flank had been driven in by the Crown Prince; 
the occupation of Chlum had placed the Prussians 
upon its centre, and had made them masters of the 
main road, which formed its principal avenue of 
retreat, and its left wing had been beaten by the 
Army of the Elbe. The First Army, by this time 
relieved from the oppressive strain to v/hich it had 
been exposed, soon advanced in force against its 
stricken foes ; and the Second Army, drawing in 
from the right, completed a disaster already certain. 
The whole Austrian array gave way; its convex 
front suffered frightful losses from the cross fire of 
its uniting foes, and its masses, confused and 
crowded together, were soon involved in despairing 
rout. Yet Benedek, a true soldier if not a real 


chief, fought stubbornly aud heroically to the end, 
and left nothing undone to keep back the enemy. 
The last corps of the reserve, moved rapidly for- 
ward, for a time checked the march of the Prussians, 
but it, too, ere long was broken up and scattered. 
It was now the turn of the Austrian cavalry, unwisely 
kept inactive for hours on the field ; and these fine 
squadrons, nobly supported by artillerymen, who 
fought and fell by their guns, covered the retreat, 
not without success. The defeated army was en- 
abled to get over the Elbe, but it lost not less than 
187 guns and rather more than 40,000 men, in- 
cluding fully 20,000 prisoners, of whom half had 
suffered from no wounds. The losses of the 
Prussians were less than 10,000 men, but their 
armies were so worn out and their ranks so con- 
fused — the inevitable result of their junction on the 
field — that Moltke did not attempt to press the 

Decisive a battle as Sadowa was, it cannot be com- 
pared with Jena or Austerlitz, "those mighty waves 
that effaced the landscape." The Prussians once 
more lost sight of their enemy ; and Benedek drew off 
his shattered forces making for Olmiitz, by very rapid 
marches. Custozza had by this time been fought ; 
a worthy son of the Archduke Charles had com- 
pletely defeated the Italian army, and information 
reached the Prussian camp that the whole remain- 
ing forces of Austria would be gathered together 
for the defence of Vienna. Moltke advanced 
cautiously towards the Austrian capital ; the three 


Prussian armies approaching each other, although 
moving on separate lines ; and he succeeded ^ by a 
very able movement in cutting Benedek off from 
Vienna, and intercepting his intended retreat. By 
the 22nd of July the victorious Prussians had made 
their way into the great plains of the Marchfield, 
not far from the historic field of Wagram, having 
performed feats of arms vhich had never entered 
the imagination of Frederick the Grreat ; and a 
Power once a vassal, had overthrown its Suzerain. 
The Treaty of Prague, negotiated in some measure 
by France, brought the momentous strife to an end ; 
the supremacy of Germany was transferred from 
Austria to Prussia, as the leading state ; Austria in 
fact, was driven out of Germany, and Prussia 
acquired a large extent of territory, and became the 
head of a German Confederation of the North. It 
is unnecessary to follow the contest between the 
small force which Prussia had employed against the 
Confederate States of Germany ; it strikingly illus- 
trates the success which a little but well-directed 
army may obtain against forces superior in numbers, 
but without good organization or command. 

The extraordinary success of Prussia, in the great 
war of 1866, astonished and almost terrified Europe. 
Her military power had not been suspected, and an 
immense majority of soldiers believed that Austria 
would easily defeat the enemy. Yet the dispositions 
of Moltke were generally condemned, especially the 

' These operations are very well analyzed by General Derre- 
cagaix, " La Guerre Moderne," vol. i. pp. 552, 556, 


double march into Bohemia and Saxony ; and the 
needle-gun alone was set down as the cause of Sa- 
dowa and the other Prussian victories. A genera- 
tion, indeed, which retained memories of the marvels 
of 1796 and 1814, and which had lately witnessed 
the fine operations around Richmond, of that great 
captain, Lee,^ could not fail to censure strategic 
methods which unquestionably departed from the 
principles these grand passages of arms illustrate ; 
and it may confidently be asserted that no impartial 
critic of repute approved of Moltke's direction of 
the war, until after the triumphs of 1870-1. The 
subject invites a few comments, the excitement of 
the time having passed away, and our knowledge of 
the facts having been enlarged. 

Moltke invaded Bohemia on a double line, with 
three anHthen two armies widely divided by a 
mountainous and intricate country, but converging 
to an arranged point of junction, the Austrian army 
being nearly equal in number to his entire forces and 
not distant. Operations of this kind are hazardous in 
the extreme, for not to refer to other dangers, the 
enemy is given an opportunity to strike in, before the 

' Among many other authorities we may cite Lecomte, " Guerre 
de la Prusse, etc." vol. i. p. 369, who expresses the ideas of 
Jomini in this matter. " Depuis qu'onfait la guerre, en avait 
rarement place de tclles masses dans des conditions d'action plus 
pitoyables que I'etaient les masses Prussienes. La ct'lebre 
bevue des generaux Autrichiens de 1796, s'avan9ant au secours 
de Mantoue en trois colonnes separees, bevue si bien chatiee par 
Bonaparte et connue de tons les ecoliers, etait certes un chef 
d'oeuvre de strategic a cote du plan prussien de 1866." 



separate masses unite, and to attack and beat them 
successively in detail. Many notable examples have 
made this truth manifest; and Napoleon's exploits 
around Mantua, only illustrate, with peculiar 
splendour, what, for instance, has been achieved by 
Turenne, by the Archduke Charles, and the illustrious 
Lee. Nor does the war in Bohemia, in 1866, disprove 
a conclusion that may be accepted as an axiom of the 
military art. Had Benedek been a real general, had 
his army been equal to rapid movements, he pro- 
bably could have carried out his project ; could 
have reached the table-land between the Iser and 
the Elbe before the approach of the Prussian 
armies; and holding a central position, and interior 
lines, could have fallen first on Prince Frederick 
Charles, and then turned against the Second Army. 
Nay, false and slow as his operations were, and bad 
as were his army's arrangements, he might certainly 
on the 26th and 27th of June have attacked the 
Crown Prince with very superior forces, and made 
Prince Frederick Charles powerless, so decisive was 
the advantage of the position which, without know- 
ing it, he had attained. Moltke's strategy, therefore, 
was very dangerous ; it might have led to real dis- 
asters, and it should be added that Napoleon has 
condemned this strategic method in many passages, 
and that he ^ emphatically condemned movements of 

' " Commentaires," vol. vi. p. 336, ed. 1867, " II est de principe 
que les reunions des divers corps d'armee ne doivent jamais se 
faire pres de I'ennemi ; cependant tout reussit au roi." Attempts 
have been made to distinguish the operations of Frederick from 


the kind, undertaken, on the same theatre of war, 
by Frederick the Great in 1756 and 1757, although 
the King was completely successful. JSTor can it be 
forgotten that in 1778 Frederick failed, in circum- 
stances extremely similar, against Lacy and the 
brilliant Loudon. 

The question, therefore, is, what excuse can be 
made for the violation of a principle in war, which 
exposed the Prussian armies to great dangers, 
though every kind of advantage was on their side ? 
An apology has been composed by the Prussian 
Staff, very possibly from the pen of Moltke him- 
self, but it fails to meet the real facts of the case, 
and if not uncandid, it is at best inadequate. 
Benedek, the argument runs, had not sufficient 
time ^ to interpose between the Prussian armies, and 
to command space enough, on the scene of the con- 
flict, to enable him to attack them when apart ; his 
central position and interior lines were, accordingly 
of no use to him, and he placed himself between 
them only to incjir disaster. In the events that 
happened, this, we believe, is true, as regards the 
Austrian leader's project, to gain the table-land 
between the Iser and the Elbe, and to fall on Prince 
Frederick Charles, in the first instance, repeating 
the attack on the Crown Prince, but this really 

those of Moltke, but they have not been very successful, and 
Napoleon's remark is of universal application. 

' " Prussian Staff History," p. 65. Here and there " auri per 
ramos aura refulget," the hand of Moltke appears through these 
masses of details. Yet it is doubtful if he really is the author of 
this apology. 

G 2 


evades the true issue. Benedek had time and space 
enough on the 26th of June, and until after the end 
of the 27th/ to assail the Crown Prince in over- 
whelming numbers, and to hold Prince Frederick 
Charles in check, and this consideration will be held 
decisive, except in the eyes of the worshippers of 
success. This apology, therefore, falls to the 
ground, it cannot stand the test of well-informed 

Another explanation of Moltke's strategy, is 
that he made use of a discovery of the age, which 
lessened the risk he certainly ran. One of the 
dangers of an advance on a double line is, that it is 
difficult to make the converging armies keep time 
with each other on their march ; and this gives the 
adversary an occasion to interpose, and to strike 
right and left at his divided enemies. But the 
electric telegraph enables armies to communicate 
with each other, at any distance, from hour to hour, 
nay from minute to minute, and so to regulate their 
movements as to be in concert ; this immensely 
diminishes, in operations of the kind, the hazards 
which otherwise would be incurred ; and Moltke 
directed the Prussian armies, by the electric tele- 
graph, in their advance on Gitschin. In reply to 
this, it might be enough to say, that no hint is to 
be found in the " Prussian Staff History," that this 
argument is of the slightest value; it should be 

^ The subject is very ably discussed by General Derrecagaix, 
'^La Guerre Moderne," vol i. p. 292. A simple analysis of the real 
facts is conclusive. 


recollected that the electric telegraph did not pre- 
vent Prince Frederick Charles from acting without 
regard to the Crown Prince, and marching on 
Munchengratz instead of Gitschiu ; and, above all, 
did not prevent Benedek ^ from gaining a central 
position between them, and possessing the advan- 
tage of interior lines. There is, however, we 
believe, even a more complete answer to what is 
little more than an ingenious afterthought. Benedek 
had the assistance of the electric telegraph, even to 
a greater extent than Moltke ; ^ the conditions of 
communication were, therefore, rendered at least 
equal for the hostile armies ; and, though this is 
not the place to examine the subject, it can be 
proved, we think, that the electric telegraph is of 

' Writers who have made the discovery that '^ Moltke invented 
a new strategy," have denied that a central position and interior 
lines are of any advantage ; Moltke would have been the first to 
laugh at such nonsense. The value of a central position and of 
interior lines was seen conspicuously in 1866, in the operations of 
Falkenstein, against the levies of the German Confederation, and 
in the Prussian advance to the Danube ; and it was exhibited 
very clearly, as we shall notice afterwards, in Moltke's move- 
ments during the siege of Paris. The advantage may not be so 
decisive, in the case of the immense armies of the present age 
as it was in the days of Turenne, or even of Napoleon, but it is, 
and must be very considerable. General Derrecagaix ably 
reviews the question in, "La Guerre Moderne," vol. i. pp. 275, 
293, and seems to think that the change in the size of armies has 
made no essential difference. 

" This evidently is the opinion of Lord Wolseley, United 
Sei'vice Mar/azine, October, 1801, p. 6. "The power which the 
electric telegraph gave Moltke was most important ; but the tele- 
graph ought also to have helped Benedek." 


more use to an army in a central position, and 
standing upon interior lines, than to two armies 
drawing towards each other, but still far apart. 

A third apology that has been made for Moltke 
has found favour with distinguished soldiers, and 
certainly is entitled to respect. He knew, it is 
alleged, that Benedek was a bad general, and that 
the Austrian army was of inferior quality; and, 
acting on this knowledge, he ventured to under- 
take, in order to gain decisive success, operations 
hazardous no doubt in theory,^ but not really 
perilous, as affairs stood. It deserves notice that 
this is the very excuse made by Clausewitz" for 
Frederick the Great, probably with reference to 
Napoleon's censures on the movements of the King 
in 1756 and 1757, analogous, we have seen, to 
those of Moltke. Moltke, too, probably was not 
ignorant of the character of Benedek, and of the 
state of his army; and, unquestionably, many a 
great captain has done things in the presence of an 
adversary he could hold cheap, which he could not 
attempt in the presence of a really able enemy, 
commanding a good and ejficient army. This is 
repeatedly seen in the campaigns of Turenne, of 
Marlborough, and above all of .Napoleon ; the most 
striking instance perhaps in history is Nelson's 
attack on the fleet of Yilleneuve, an inspiration of 

' This is the position taken by Lord Wolseley, United Service 
Magazine, Oct. 1891, pp. 4, 6. 

Theorie de la grande Guerre," French translation, vol. iii. 
p. 193. 


genius, wHcli would have been madness had not 
Nelson been well aware of the impotence of the foe 
in his grasp ; and it should be added that this kind 
of discernment is one of the distinctive marks of a 
real leader in war. But disregarding an enemy 
may be carried too far ; and a whole plan of opera- 
tions, based on the notion that liberties may safely 
be taken with him, is assuredly open to adverse 
comment. Napoleon has over and over again 
insisted that a strategic project ought to assume 
that a opponent, as a rule, will do what is right,^ 
and that it should follow correct methods; and 
wonderful as were his feats of arms, when dealing 
with men like Alvinzi and Mack, he never deviated 
from this sound principle. But the whole plan of 
Moltke, in 1866, was in its conception too hazardous, 
and this apology, therefore, is not sufficient. 

The true excuse to be offered for Moltke, is we 
believe of a different kind, and curiously enough is 
found in the work of an enemy.^ We have already 
indicated what that excuse is, but we shall very 
briefly recur to the subject. The excessive dis- 
semination of the forces of Prussia, at the moment 
when hostilities begun, was, as we have seen, not 

^ This, too, is laid down by Moltke himself, "The Franco-f 
German War," English translation, vol. i. p. 94. 

• Les Luttes de I'Autriche, vol. iii. p. 27 : " Cette concentra- 
tion des deux armees offrait evidemraent de grand dangers, mais 
elle etait la consequence force du plan adoptc par I'etat major 
prussien." The writer, however, was not aware that this plan 
was adopted by Moltke, under the stress of circumstances, over 
which he had no real control. 


to be ascribed to Moltke ; and, had he been free to 
carry out his ideas from the first, there is reason 
to believe that he would not have attempted the 
invasion of Bohemia on a double line. But the 
Prussian armies being divided as they were, he had 
no choice, but to do what he did, or to operate in 
quite a different way, that is to concentrate the 
armies behind the Bohemian hills, and to advance 
on a single front of invasion ; and this course must 
have involved delay, and would have enabled the 
Austrian army to take defensive positions of the 
greatest strength, and possibly even to take the offen- 
sive. He was limited therefore to two alternatives ; 
and though it has been urged by good judges,^ 
that the alternative he adopted was the worse of 
the two, that he ought to have drawn all his forces 
together, and entered Bohemia on one line only, 
and that, in that event, he would have achieved 
success, decisive and certain, without running 
risks ; this conclusion is by no means obvious. In 
any case, if fault is to be found with his strategy, 
this must be attributed in the main to a position 
of affairs,^ which was, in no sense, of his own 

If Moltke's operations in 1866 were, therefore, 
hazardous in a high degree, and are fairly open to 

' Lecomte, vol. i. pp. 370-1. This view probably was that of 

"^ Lord Wolseley, who seems to have had special information 
on the subject, distinctly asserts, United Service Magazine, Oct. 
1891, p. 8 ; " Moltke was not responsible for the dispersion of the 


sharp criticism, the situation must be taken into 
account, and, from this point of view, much is to 
be said for them. These operations, however, will 
not find a place among the master-pieces of the art 
of war; and they can be justified only upon 
assumptions, which must be kept in sight, if they 
are not to be condemned. It is otherwise if we 
confine our study of the contest to the day of 
Sadowa ; here Moltke's dispositions rise above cen- 
sure, and deserve all but the very highest praise. 
The Prussian leader, indeed, did not regard a prin- 
ciple on which Napoleon often insists,^ that separate 
armies ought not to unite in face of the enemy on 
the field ; and the course even of this battle shows 
that the great master, as a rule, is in the right. 
The First Army on that 3rd of July was for a time 
in undoubted peril ; the Second Army might quite 
conceivably have failed to perform a most arduous 
task; the junction of the two armies caused such 
confusion that it was impossible to pursue the 
enemy, and Benedek drew off the great mass of 
his forces. But the incapacity of the Austrian 
chief, and the feebleness and despondency of the 
Austrian army had, by this time, been made clearly 
manifest ; it is very doubtful, too, if Benedek had 
a real opportunity to attack with success ; and the 
tactics of the Prussians, bearing in mind the existing 
state of affairs, were the best possible. The bold 

• " Commentaires," vol i. p. 444: "Le principe de ne jamais 
reunir ses colonnes devant et prcs de reniiemi." Waterloo and 
Sadowa are special exceptions that really prove the rule. 


and rapid decision of Moltke, too, to unite the three 
armies for a decisive effort was worthy of a chief of 
a high order, and it should be said, besides, that a 
general-in-chief was never more loyally and ably 
seconded. The march of the Crown Prince to the 
field was one of the finest in the annals of war ; 
and the conduct of the Prussian Guards has been 
never surpassed. 

Moltke gave proof, in the war of 1866, of deci- 
sion, promptness, and force of character, but_jiot, 
we think, of strategic genius. His movements are 
still censured^ Sy~very^able critics, and had his 
career ended on the field of Sadowa, he would 
never have been placed among great captains. 
The causes of the success of the Prussians are 
manifest, and lie upon the surface. Benedekwas a 
commander of the most faulty type ; he was dull- 
minded, obstinate, and sluggish in the field, and 
inevitable disaster was the consequence. He had 
one great chance, but he threw it away ; his opera- 

' Charles Malo, before referred to, observes : '' Du 22 au 29 
Juin, il ne tenait qu'au general autricbien de les battre en detail, 
et de rendre leur jonction impossible, pour peu qu'il sut mettre 
a profit sa position centrale et ses lignes interieures ; aucune raison, 
militaire ne I'empechait, et s'il est assurement permis a la guerre de 
faire fonds jusqu'a un certain point sur Timperitie de son 
adversaire, si Ton pent se permettre vis-a-vis d'un Mack ce qui Ton 
ne tenterait pas impune'ment vis-a-vis d'un archiduc Charles, il y a 
lieu de reconnaitre avec tons les historiens impartiaux de la cam- 
pagne, que Tetat-major prussien a par trop largement escompte des 
fautes qu'un e'clair de bon sens ou un sage conseil suffisait Ji faire 
eviter. En un mot, il ne faut rien moins que tant inertie d'une 
part, pour faire excuse de I'autre, de tant de temerite." 


tions from the 26tli to the 30th of June simply 
played into his enemy's hands ; his dispositions 
at Sadowa were poor ■ and defective. In General 
Hamley's words,^ he was one of those leaders who 
" spoils his offensive movements by hesitation, 
defends himself by makeshifts, and only half under- 
stands his own blunders when they have ruined his 
army ; " and he became the easy prey of his skilled 
antagonists. The Austrian army, too, was not to 
be compared in natural strength, in moral force, in 
organization, in power of manoeuvre, and in arma- 
ment, to the enemy it met ; it was even more inferior 
to King William's army, than the army of Daun 
was to that of Frederick the Great. The Prussian 
army, on the other hand, if not nearly as perfect as 
it was made afterwards, was by many degrees the 
best army of the time. It had been adjusted to 
the new conditions, its organization had been 
admirably arranged, it had been divided into units 
of manageable size ; the rapidity of its movements 
and its energy in the field received justly the praise 
of all eye-witnesses. Its leaders, too, though 
mistakes were made, for mistakes must necessarily 
be made in war, exhibited skill, vigour, intelli- 
gence, promptness, and usually acted in perfect 
concert ; and in these respects we perceive how fine 
had been their training. The tactics of the three 
arms had not yet been perfected, but the needle- 
gun alone gave the Prussian infantry a prodigious 
advantage over their foes ; and the Austrians 
' " Operations of War," p. 409. Ed. 1889. 


quailed under the power of this destructive weapon. 
This army which, when in face of its enemy was 
" like a panther darting on an ox," had been, in a 
great measure, the creation of Moltke ; this circum- 
stance was, in 1866, his real title to renown. 


Immense increase of the military power of Prussia after 1866 — 
League with Southern Germany — The army of Prussia and 
the Confederation of the North — Its South German 
auxiliaries — Great efforts made to improve these forces — 
Attitude of France and Prussia after 1866 — War probable — 
Efforts made by Napoleon III. to increase and strengthen the 
French army — ^Sketch of the history of that army — The 
Emperor's attempted reforms almost fail — Deplorable weak- 
ness of the French compared to the German armies — 
Other causes of inferiority — The war of 1870-1 — The plan 
of Napoleon III. — The Army of the Rhine — The Emperor's 
plan is frustrated — The plan of Moltke — Concentration of 
the First, Second, and Third German armies in the Palatinate 
and the Rhenish provinces — Positions of the belligerent 
armies at the end of July— The French perhaps lose an 
opportunity to strike the First Army — The combat of Sarre- 
bruck — Advance of the united German armies to the frontier 
of France— Combat of Wissembourg and defeat of a French 
detachment — Battle of Worth and defeat of the French 
army — Precipitate retreat of Macmahon — Battle of Spicheren 
and second defeat of the French — Critical position of the 
Army of the Rhine. 

The Treaty of Prague, we have seen, had enlarged 
Prussia, and had made her the head of a German 
Confederation of the North. An immense develop- 
ment of her resources for war was one of the 
immediate results of this sudden growth of power. 
Schleswig-Holstein, Hanover, and Hesse-Cassel, 
had become parts of her newly acquired territory ; 


Saxony and other small states were her Confederate 
allies ; and four new corps d'armee, raised in these 
lands, were added to the nine of the Prussian army, 
increasing the total number to thirteen, while the 
system of the reserves and Landwehr of Prussia was 
extended to these conquered or dependent provinces. 
The standing army of the Confederation of the 
North, that is, of Prussia under another name, 
became thus fully 550,000 strong, and the Land- 
wehr not less than 400,000, the Prussian Landsturm 
being again omitted ; and the standing army, in- 
cluding the reserve, was composed in the main of 
trained soldiers, while the Landwehr, though a 
supplemental force, was capable of good service in 
second line. Yet even these figures do not convey an 
adequate notion of the huge increase of the military 
strength of Prussia at this time. Partly owing to the 
fear of the ambition of France, for 1813 had been 
never forgotten, and recent events had revived its 
memories, and partly to the impulse to German unity, 
which the war of 1866 had greatly quickened, the 
German states of the South soon joined hands with 
Prussia, though allies of Austria a few months before, 
and Bavaria, Baden, and Wilrtemberg placed their 
forces at the disposal of their late enemy. The 
standing armies of these three powers exceeded 
100,000 men ; the reserves, corresponding to the 
Prussian Landwehr, were not less than 60,000 
or 70,000 ; and these arrays formed a powerful 
addition to the armed strength of the dominant 
state of Germany. Within less than four years from 


the day of Sadowa, tlie standing army of Northern 
and Southern Germany, directed and controlled 
from Berlin, was fully 650,000 strong, including 
about 100,000 horsemen and 1500 guns; and this 
colossal mass was supported by nearly half a million 
men, for the most part equal to the work of war. 
Napoleon had never such a force in arms, even 
when he drew levies, of many races and tongues, 
from all parts of a subdued continent. 

Nor were earnest and constant efforts wanting to 
strengthen the formidable military machine which 
had been enlarged into these huge proportions. 
Trained officers were employed, to extend the 
system of Prussian organization through the Con- 
federate allies, and especially to reform the South 
German armies. The most careful attention was 
given to the means of transport and communication, 
with a view to war ; new railways were made and 
others designed ; and wonderful as had seemed the 
rapidity of the assembly of the forces of Prussia 
in 1866, a much higher rate of celerity was attained. 
Sadowa, in fact, instead of making the victors rest 
content on their laurels, and satisfied with what 
they had already won, became a point of departure 
for fresh preparations, and for perfecting the state 
of the Prussian army. The experiences of the con- 
test were turned to advantage; faults that had been 
committed were carefully noted, and especially the 
methods through which the three arms can be 
brought to a state of the highest efficiency, became 
the subject of intelligent study. The formations of 


the infantry, if not finally settled, were gradually 
made more light and flexible, in order to increase 
the power of its fire, and to lessen the effects of the 
fire of the enemy; the cavalry, which had been 
scarcely a match for the Austrian squadrons, was 
much improved ; the material of the artillery was 
transformed, old smooth-bore guns being given up 
as useless, and rifled brsech-loading guns being 
placed in their stead ; and the tactics of the artil- 
lery were greatly changed, the reserves of guns of 
the age of Napoleon having been found to be 
extremely cumbrous, and of little avail in the battles 
of the day. These multifarious and searching re- 
forms, too, were carried out by the military chiefs 
with an energy, a thoroughness, and a practical 
skill, of which eye witnesses have left no uncertain 
sound. " The activity of the Prussian army," 
said one of the ablest of these, " is prodigious. It 
is not equalled in any other army of Europe ; it is 
that of a hive of bees." ^ 

We cannot exactly set forth the share of Moltke 
in these great works of reform; but they had, we 

^ For further information on the extension of the military 
power of Prussia after 1866, and on the improvement of the 
Prussian and German armies, the reader may consult, among other 
authorities, Eiistow, vol. i., chaps, iv. and v.: "Note sur I'organi- 
sation Militaire de la Confederation de TAlIemagne du Xord," 
written by Napoleon III. ; Talbot's *' Analysis of the organization 
of the Prussian Army ; " Reports of the " Commission des Con- 
ferences Militaires ; " the " Letters on Artillery, Cavalry and 
Infantry " of Prince Kraft Hohenlohe ; and, above all, the im- 
portant " Reports " of Baron Stoffel, a French military attache at 
Berlin during this period. 


know, his cordial support. These preparations were 
not without cause ; the long-standing feud between 
Prussia and France, composed for a time, had he- 
come again active, and -war between the two states 
was alread}^ probable. Napoleon III. had not been 
averse to the aggrandizement of Prussia, up to a 
certain point, and he had even sympathies with 
G-erman unity ; but France, he insisted, should have 
an equivalent in an extension of her frontier to- 
wards the Ehine. Bismarck artfully flattered the 
Emperor's hopes, without committing himself to 
definite pledges ; and, when Austria and Prussia 
became involved in war, Napoleon probably thought 
that he would have an occasion to carry out suc- 
cessfully his ambitious projects. He was bafifled, 
however, by the results of Sadowa ; instead of 
beinof made an arbiter between the contendinof 
Powers, he had to submit to the will of Prussia ; 
his demands for compensation out of German terri- 
tory were courteously, but distinctly, rejected, and 
the formation of the G-erman Confederation of the 
North, and the alliance of the South German States 
with Prussia, made him aware that a gigantic Ger- 
man Power had established itself along his borders. 
He felt the bitterness of humiliation and defeat ; 
and, meanwhile, the splendour of the Prussian vic- 
tories had aroused the jealousy of the French army, 
and the immense increase of the power of Prussia 
for war had alarmed French politicians and states- 
men. The classes which direct opinion in France 
began to denounce Prussia as a deadly enemy ; and 


Prussia, in turn, intent on becoming the undisputed 
liead of a united Germany and on being supreme 
from the Rhine to the Niemen, saw in France the 
only obstacle in her path. Old passions and hatreds 
were quickened into life by the animosities of the 
present time ; and a rupture, ultimately perhaps to 
grow into a furious conflict of hostile races, seemed 
imminent in a not distant future. Prussia, accord- 
ingly, had sharpened her weighty sword ; and the 
prodigious extension of her military strength, and 
especially her league with the South German Powers, 
were largely due to the prospect of a struggle with 

In view of the war, which they deemed certain, 
the French Emperor and the men around his throne 
directed their minds to the state of the army and to 
the means of increasing its force. The army of 
France, perhaps the oldest in Europe, has, like the 
nation, "had its ebbs and flows," and has proved 
every extreme of fortune. It was little more than 
a feudal militia until after the middle of the seven- 
teenth century ; it became the admiration and the 
scourge of the Continent when administered by 
Louvois and directed by Turenne. After a series of 
defeats, due to Eugene and Marlborough, it emerged 
from the War of the Spanish Succession, stricken 
but victorious, under a great chief, Villars ; and, 
though it fought brilliantly when led by Saxe, it 
sank into decrepitude during the Seven Years' War. 
It almost perished in the Great Revolution, yet 
reappeared in the masses of levies which drove the 


League of Europe across the frontiers, and it accom- 
plislied wonders against the hosts of the Continent, 
ill-organized, with incapable leaders, and in the 
fetters of obsolete routine. Ere long it fell into the 
hands of Napoleon, and though it was by no means 
free from very grave defects, it marched, with the 
great master, from Madrid to Moscow, and it 
inscribed on its banners a roll of victories un- 
paralleled for their number and splendour. Yet its 
reverses were as great as its triumphs, and it saw 
Vitoria, Leipzig, Waterloo, as well as Marengo, 
Jena, and Austerlitz. At the Restoration it was 
little more than the shadow of a great name for 
many years. 

After the fall of ISTapoleon the French army was 
formed on a plan, of which the chief authors were 
Marshals Gouvion St. Cyr and Soult, well-known 
lieutenants of the great Emperor. This scheme of 
organization embodied ideas of the Republican and 
Imperial eras, adapted, however, to an age of 
peace and of national exhaustion, after a strife with 
Europe. The conscription, established in 1798-9, 
which formed the system of recruiting in France, 
which had filled the ranks of the Grrand Army with 
hundreds of thousands of good soldiers, but which 
Napoleon had frightfully abused, was retained as an 
institution of the state, but was modified to a 
considerable extent ; and the practice was allowed 
of admitting substitutes in the place of the recruits 
drawn to enter the army. The principle, therefore, 

of the Prussian system, that every subject is bound 

H 2 

100 MOLTKE. 

to military duty, a principle first asserted in Revo- 
lutionary France, was abaDdoned, or evaded at 
least ; and more tlian one writer has, perhaps fanci- 
fully, declared that a decline in the warlike temper 
of the French people may be traced to this circum- 
stance. The conscription was divided into two 
classes, the first of men called to serve in the ranks, 
the second of men to form a reserve ; and this last 
class was left wholly untrained, the experiences of 
1792-1815 having proved, it was thought, that the 
youth of France had such a natural fitness for war 
that a few months of preparation would make them 
soldiers. The army, constituted in this way, was 
composed of about 300,000 men, for the most part 
troops of a high order, for the term of service was 
eight years at least ; it was supplied, also, with good 
material of war, and with thousands of skilful and 
veteran oflBcers, the survivors of the Napoleonic days, 
and it could be increased by nearly 300,000 more ; 
this reserve, however, it must be borne in mind, 
being without military discipline and skill, and in 
fact an assemblage of rude levies. In this respect 
the reserve was very inferior even to the Landwehr 
of the Prussian system, for the Landwehr had had 
experience in the ranks ; but Soult, recollecting the 
glories of the past, especially insisted that a force 
of this kind would prove formidable and efficient in 
the field, and would suffice as a second line for the 
regular army. 

The army of France, formed on this system, 
distinguished itself in Algerian warfare, produced 


at least one eminent chief, Bugeaud, and a consider- 
able number of brilliant officers, and played a 
conspicuous part in the siege of Sebastopol. After 
the accession to the throne, however, of Napoleon 
III., it underwent a marked change for the worse ; 
and this, owing to two distinct causes. By this 
time the old officers of the Grand Army had passed 
away, and had left no successors of equal military 
worth and skill ; and the principle of commuting 
the duty to serve, by the mere payment of a sum of 
money, a most mischievous principle had been 
established. Recruits, who had been compelled to 
find substitutes, approved by the state, or to serve 
in person, had been made enabled to discharge 
themselves from military liabilities of all kinds, by 
a simple contribution to the War Office, and the 
results were, in different ways, disastrous. The 
army became crowded with bad troops, tempted 
into the ranks by the sums thus obtained ; it was 
largely avoided by the better classes ; its quality 
was in some measure impaired ; and it was 
even considerably reduced in numbers, for men 
could not be always found to replace the men who 
had freed themselves from the obligation to serve. 
Yet these were not the worst defects in the existing 
military system of France. New conditions of war 
were being developed ; owing to the extension of 
railways, operations in the field were year after 
year becoming more rapid ; and the invention of 
rifled small-arms and cannon made it necessary that 
soldiers should have a careful trainino:. In these 

102 MOLTKE. 

circumstances the untried reserve of the French 
army became almost useless. Recruits, who, in the 
first part of the century, had months to learn a 
soldier's calling, before they were summoned to 
join their regiments, had now only a few weeks or 
days ; and raw conscripts, who could become familiar 
with the old musket in a very short time, could not 
equally deal with arms of precision. The reserve 
therefore became a mere force on paper ; and 
Napoleon III. made it no secret that, in the Cam- 
paign of Italy in 1859, he had no second line to the 
regular army. 

The expedition to Mexico, almost as fatal to the 
Second Empire as Spain had been to the First, still 
further weakened the French army. The Emperor, 
a man of thought and ideas, though almost a 
failure as a man of action, had endeavoured, mean- 
while, to introduce improvements into a military 
system behind the age ; and, in some measure, he 
strengthened the reserve by requiring that its levies 
should have a partial training. The French army, 
nevertheless, remained a very imperfect instrument 
of war ; and Napoleon made an effort, after 
Sadowa, and in view of the probable war with 
Prussia, to augment its numbers and to render it 
more efficient. The classes for recruiting were 
somewhat increased, further attempts were tried to 
give the reserve discipline ; and the principle of a 
general liability to serve was asserted by the institu- 
tion of the Garde Mobile, a levy, however, which, 
even in theory, could not form a really effective 


force, for it was to be called out for a fortnight 
only in the year, and it could be at best simply a 
weak militia. These changes, moreover, were only 
proposed between 1866 and 1868 ; time was needed 
to make them of any use, insufficient and feeble make- 
shifts as they were ; and ere long Marshal Niel, the 
ablest of the Imperial counsellors, was removed from 
the scene by premature death, and faction and folly 
in the Chambers in Paris baffled and set at nougfht 
the Emperor's projects. The reform of the army 
proved, in a Avord, abortive ; and when 1870 had 
come that army presented a strange contrast to that 
of Prussia and her auxiliary States. It showed a force 
on paper of more than a million of men ; but 500,000 
of these were Gardes Mobiles, a levy scarcely called 
into existence, and that must be almost left out of 
the account ; and it was really composed of 567,000 
men, of whom a considerable part was an ill-trained 
reserve. Immense deductions, too, had to be made 
from this total, for troops in Algeria, in depots, in 
fortresses, and for men that could not be deemed 
effective ; and the true number of the standing 
army of France was under 340,000 men,^ comprising 
some 40,000 cavalry, and less than 1000 guns, and 
backed by a weak reserve of very little value. This 
was wholly different from the colossal arrays which 

^ " The Franco-German War." "Prussian Staff History," vol. i. 12. 
The great importance of the military statistics collected by Moltke 
is proved by the fact that, in 186G and in 1870he was perfectly 
acquainted with the military resources of Austria and France. 
Spies, too, were very largely employed. 

J 04 MOI/i'KK. 

Prussia and her dependents could send into the 
field ; and France would be outnumbered nearly 
two to one should she venture to enter the lists with 
her rival. 

Nor were numbers only anything like a test of 
the inferiority of the military power of France. The 
army of Prussia, we have seen, was organized on the 
local territorial system ; and this system, if well 
administered, whatever objections may be made to 
it, unquestionably facilitates the assembly of troops, 
for the operations of war, in a short space of time. 
It is obvious, in fact, that when corps d'armee are 
established in separate tracts or provinces, with 
their reserves and their requirements on the spot, 
they can be brought rapidly into the field ; and this 
celerity is of supreme importance, for it may secure 
the initiative in the first moves of a campaign. The 
French army, on the other hand, was formed on 
what we may call the central national system ; that 
is, large bodies of troops existed, as a rule, in 
certain parts of the country, but it was necessary, 
on a declaration of war, to unite these into corps 
d'armee; their reserves were scattered throughout 
France, and many of their essential needs were 
kept in great depots and arsenals at a distance 
from them. This considerably delayed their 
assembly in the field ; and though mechanism is not 
to be rated too highly, it has been fairly remarked, 
that,^ under the one system the instrument could be 
used at once, and that, under the other, time was 

" " Note sur rOrganisation Militaire," p. 69. 


required to put together its component parts. The 
railways, again, of Prussia and Germany were 
generally constructed with a view to war ; those of 
France were rather made for the ends of commerce ; 
and this difference alone would give the Prussian 
army a great advantage, in the event of a collision 
between the two powers, for it would enable it to 
combine, and to take the field more quickly than 
its supposed enemy. Yet even all this does not 
sufiSce to show how ill-fitted France was to cope 
with an infinitely stronger and better prepared 
antagonist. Napoleon III. had no administrative 
power; he never possessed a good war minister; 
many of the subordinates in the War Department 
were incapable men, without a sense of duty ; and 
the military organization of France accordingly 
was out of joint, and did its work badly. On the 
other hand, Moltke and Roon had brought the 
military organization of Prussia, and to a certain 
extent of the lesser states, to a point that almost 
approached perfection. 

On the opposite sides of the Rhine, therefore, 
formidable military strength confronted weakness, 
and an admirable organization for war was placed 
beside one that was bad and defective. Apart from 
inferiority in numbers, too, the army of France was 
not equal to that of Prussia. In the chassepot rifle, 
indeed, the French infantry possessed a better weapon 
than the Prussian needle-gun ; and this gave it a 
distinct advantage. But the German artillery was 
far superior to the French ; and the mitrailleuse, 

106 MOLTKE. 

a feeble instrument in the field, had been largely 
substituted for the ordinary gun, to please Napoleon 
III., in the French batteries. The cavalry of France 
was still true to its noble traditions, and excelled 
in daring and rapid movements ; but it had not 
been trained as an exploring force, one of its chief 
uses in the days of Napoleon ; and in this respect 
the Prussians were far before it. If, too, a con- 
siderable part of the French army was composed of 
troops who had been in the ranks much longer 
than the young Prussian soldiers, a considerable part 
was a mass of recruits ; and the elements, therefore, 
of military power were better combined in the hosts 
of Prussia. But the most marked feature of 
inferiority was this : in the French army, the three 
arms had not been accustomed to act in concert, 
as systematically as in the Prussian service ; their 
proper functions had not been as fully ascertained ; 
and this told powerfully against the French. 
Turning to the higher grades and the chief com- 
mands, the French staff, even in the time of 
Napoleon, exhibited several plain defects; it had 
since declined from a high standard ; and it could 
not be compared to the staff of Prussia, by many 
degrees the best in Europe. The French army, 
therefore, did not possess a source of power of 
extreme value ; and in the most important respect 
of all, its supreme direction, it was sadly wanting. 
It had not a single great commander in high places : 
most of its leaders, versed in Algerian warfare, 
had neglected the nobler parts of the military art, 


and were unequal to large operations in the field : 
they had little knowledge of scientific war, and of 
strategy and tactics of the grand kind : and these 
heirs of the renown of Napoleon's legions were 
ignorant of Napoleon's teaching and methods. 
Men such as these are " but stubble to the swords " 
of the generals of Prussia, and above all, of 

In this sketch of the military state of France, some 
elements of power have to be still considered. Her 
organized army was pitiably weak ; but in her 
Algerian reserves, in her large garrisons, in thou- 
sands of veterans, who had seen service, and in her 
gallant and martial youth, she had real materials 
of strength in war, and ill-arranged and scattered 
as they were, time was to show that these could 
be made formidable. She had besides, immense 
wealth, and world-wide credit, the command of 
the sea as against Germany, and the patriotism 
and pride of a great nation, and these resources, 
seldom borne in mind sufficiently, even by the 
ablest soldiers, were, as they have always been, of 
the highest value. Nevertheless the French people 
at this juncture was in a condition that was not 
favourable to a perilous conflict with such a power 
as Germany. Its sons, indeed, were, in no sense, 
degenerate, as a fine page of history was ere long 
to prove, and it had still that singular aptitude for 
war which distinguished the Gauls of the age of 
Caesar. But it had been devoted for years to the 
arts of peace, to the accumulation of riches, to 

108 MOLTKE. 

successful industry ; it had suffered from the effects 
of democratic despotism, most injurious to the 
national life, and corruption and sloth were but 
too prevalent in its higher, and even its middle 
classes, with consequences pregnant with many evils. 
On the other hand, Germany was animated by a 
strong feeling to complete, once for all, the national 
unity ; and she was inspired by a growing hatred of 
France, the enemy of ages tliat was thwarting her 
purpose. The enthusiasm of 1792-4, which had 
enabled France to triumph over old Europe, was 
now, in fact, on the side of Germany.'^ 

The Luxemburg incident showed how profound 
were the animosities dividing Prussia and France ; 
though negotiations, never clearly explained, were 
continued, even alter Sadowa, between Napoleon 
III. and Bismarck, on the principle of composing 
mutual discord ^ by the spoliation of a neighbouring 
and friendly state. The Hohenzollern candidature 
for the throne of Spain brought the festering 
elements of passion to a head, and involved Germany 
and France in a tremendous conflict. This is not^ 

^ Ample details respecting the state of the French army, at 
this period, will be found, inter alia, in General Trochu's " L'armee 
Fran9aise en 1867 ;" in the " Reports " of Stotiel ; in Riistow, 
vol. i. cljap. iii. ; in the " Prussian Staff History," vol. i. chap. i. ; 
and in the "Conferences Militaires." See also " Les Forces 
Militaires de la France en 1870," by le Comte La Chapelle, 
Napoleon III., under a feigned name. 

^ For a sketch of these negotiations, see Fyffe's " History of 
Modem Europe," vol. iii. pp. 384-5. 

^ On this subject the reader may consult the official correspon- 


Emperor of France. 


the place to pronounce a judgment on the conduct 
of the persons engaged in a lamentable quarrel that 
appalled Europe : enough to say that the provoca- 
tion came from Prussia, that the French Govern- 
ment was guilty of petulant folh"-, and that Bismarck 
aroused to frenzy the wrath of Paris, in concert 
perhaps with chiefs ^ of the array who, indisputably, 
were eager to force on a war, in which the chances, 
they knew, would be all against France. At a 
great Council of State held at the Tuileries, the die 
was cast on the 14th of July, 1870 ; the French 
reserves were called out on the following day ; the 
Chambers voted immense credits, amidst a scene 
of thoughtless excitement ; and Paris, overflowing 
with madding crowds, and clamouring wildly 
through her streets, hailed with exultation the 
declaration of war. 

The fury of the capital hardly stirred the nation, 
and alarmed and embarrassed Napoleon III. The 
Emperor had, at heart, been opposed to a rupture ; 
he knew much better than his " lightminded " coun- 
sellors how immense was the military strength of 
Germany ; but he had yielded to importunities he was 
too weak to resist, and he was forced to confront a 
position of affairs, fraught with tremendous peril to 
France and his throne, with a miud and body 

dence on the dispute between France and Prussia ; an able, but 
one-sided pamphlet, "Who is responsible for the war?" by 
"Scrutator ; " and Fyffe, vol. iii. pp. 417, 421. 

* Many passages in Moltke's letters show that he had long 
been desirous of a trial of strength, between France and Prussia, 
in the field. 

110 MOLTKE. 

enfeebled by disease. His plan for the campaign 
had been formed for some time, and lie has told us 
himself that it followed the design of his mighty 
kinsman in 1815, one of the most splendid of the 
designs of Napoleon/ In 1815 the armies of 
BlUcher and Wellington were disseminated upon 
a wide and deep front, extending from Ghent and 
Liege to Charleroi; and Napoleon, drawing his forces 
together, with a secrecy and skill that have never 
been surpassed, succeeded in striking the centre of 
the Allies, and in separating their divided masses, 
and only just missed a decisive triumph. Napoleon 
III., in the same way, believed that the armies of 
Prussia and Southern Germany would be far 
apart at the beginning of the campaign, and his 
purpose was to collect a powerful army behind 
the great fortresses of Metz and Strasbourg, to 
cross the Rhine between Rastadt and Germersheim, 
and, having paralyzed or defeated the South German 
armies, to attack the Prussians in the valley of 
the Main, in the hope of renewing the glories of 
Jena. Though he was aware that the enemy would 
be superior in numbers, in the proportion at least 
of two to one, he calculated that this bold and rapid 
manoeuvre would make up for deficiency of force, 
and he had resolved to oppose 250,000 Frenchmen 

^ See Comte La Chapelle, and " Campagne de 1870," par un 
officier attache a rElat-Major-General, generally attributed to 
Napoleon III. ; " Prussian Staff History," vol. i. p. 20. We 
believe Napoleon III. set off, in 1870, with his uncle's account 
of Waterloo in his carriage. 


to about 550,000 Germans, who, he assumed, would 
be widely divided, as Napoleon had opposed 128,000 
to 224,000 of Bliicher and Wellington. But would 
a sovereign, who had never excelled in war, be able 
to wield the arms of Achilles, and to imitate 
Napoleon's march to the Sambre ? Was the French 
army of 1870 to be compared in organization and 
military worth to that which sprang into Bel- 
gium in 1815 ? Above all, would the chiefs of the 
German armies repeat the mistakes of Bliicher and 
Wellington, and would the forces of Prussia and 
Southern Germany be at a distance from each other 
when the blow would fall ? 

The bold offensive project of Napoleon III. was, 
it is believed, founded, also, on ^ a hope that Austria 
and Italy would join hands with him, should the 
French eagles appear beyond the Rhine, and it 
should be added that if he ^ contemplated an 
advance at first, with 250,000 men only, he was 
convinced that he would have an immediate reserve 
of not less than 150,000, without reckoning the 
unorganized Garde Mobile. The plan, however, 
brilliant perhaps in conception, in no sense 
corresponded to the facts, and in a few days 
proved wholly abortive. Immense efforts were 
nevertheless made, in the first instance, to carry 
it out ; and it is a mistake to suppose that the 
French War Office, and the administrative services 
attached to it, were deficient in active good 

' Fyffe, vol. iii. pp. i2i, 425. 
Comte La Chapelle. 


will and energy. Eight corps d'armee, including 
the Imperial Guard, were given the name of the 
Army of the Rhine, and directed into Alsace and 
Lorraine ; the organized parts of these arrays 
were soon collected along a broad arc, extending 
from Thionville to Strasbourg and Belfort, and 
thousands of troops and other men of the reserve 
were hurriedly despatched to join these forces. 
Here, however, the military system of France 
betrayed its inferiority, and, to a great extent, 
broke down, and the assembly of the army, which 
ought to have been rapid in the extreme, to give it 
a chance of success, was tardy, mismanaged, and 
in all respects imperfect. Even the formation of the 
corps d'armee required time, and the large contin- 
gents needed to make up their strength were scat- 
tered over all parts of the country. The railways, too, 
especially in Alsace and Lorraine, were not sufficient 
and not well prepared to carry masses of men and 
material, with the celerity which the occasion 
demanded; and the administration of the French 
army, founded on the principles we have referred to, 
and, at the crisis, largely composed of inexperienced 
and incapable men, proved unequal to bear the 
strain upon it, and to supply the corps and the 
troops on the march with all kinds of appliances 
necessary for taking the field.^ N"apoleon III. 

^ The French accounts of the maladministration and want of 
preparation of the army may be suspected of exaggeration. But 
they are confirmed by that of the ''Prussian Staff History," 


reached Metz in the last days of July, and the 
spectacle before him was very different from that 
which he had expected to find. Most of his corps, 
indeed, were spread along the frontier ; but instead 
of 250,000 men, not 200,000 had been assembled ; 
large parts of these were inferior troops ; the 
reserve fell far short of what it was on paper, and 
the , whole Army of the Rhine was not yet a 
suflBciently equipped and organized force. In these 
circumstances the ill-fated monarch virtually gave 
up his offensive project ; but " willing to wound 
and yet afraid to strike," and already dreading 
opinion in Paris, he did not adopt any other 
course, and he allowed his forces to remain in the 
positions they held, irresolute, and already waiting 
on events. 

Moltke had been hampered in 1866^; but in 
1870 he had perfect freedom of action, and, under 
the nominal command of the King, he now directed 
the whole armed strength of Prussia and her con- 
federate allies. Learned in the history of war, and 
possessing rare insight, he had anticipated the 
design of the French Emperor as long previously 
as 1868, and, in view of a probable conflict with 
France, he had proposed in a very able paper, ^ that 
the South German armies, on a declaration of war, 
should not remain isolated south of the Main, but 
should march to the Rhine, and effect their junction 

vol. i. p 29, and by Moltke in his " Precis of the Franco- 
Grerman War," vol. i. p. 6. English translation. 
' " Prussian Staff History," vol. i. p. 50. 

114 MOLTKE. 

with the armies of Prussia and the States of the 
North. It was as if Wellington and Bliicher in 
1815 had drawn their forces together, on a narrow 
front, before their adversary had approached Belgium, 
and this project of Moltke must have completely 
baffled the offensive design of Napoleon III. But 
when the armies of Germany had come into line, 
what were their movements to be in the next 
instance ? Moltke well knew that the united 
military power of Germany was much greater than 
that of France ; he believed, too, that the German 
armies could be assembled more quickly than their 
antagonists, and he formed a plan of operations, 
which, if dictated, so to speak, by the situation 
before him, was, nevertheless, admirably conceived 
and masterly. The Rhenish Provinces and the 
Palatinate had formed a kind of sallyport for an 
attack on Germany in the wars of Louis XIV. and 
of Napoleon, but they had been in the hands of 
the Germans since 1815 ; and, if strongly occupied 
by German armies, they would be a base of opera- 
tions of the highest value for a great offensive 
movement into Alsace and Lorraine. Moltke in- 
sisted therefore that the German forces, to be 
collected, we have seen, on the Rhine, should cross 
the river and join hands with those of Rhenish 
Prussia, to the west, and the uniting masses were 
to bear down in irresistible strength on the French 
frontier, where, to the north-east, it is most vul- 
nerable. Should the enemy attempt to take the 
offensive, he was to be met and encountered in 


pitched battles, the issue of which could be hardly 
doubtful, for the Germans would be two-fold in 
numbers; but should he assume a defensive atti- 
tude, he was to be driven from any lines he might 
hold, and a general invasion of France was to 
follow. In that great movement the main object of 
the Germans should be to force the French armies, 
in defeat, into the Northern Provinces, and thus to 
open a way to the capital of France. 

This plan was not a conception of genius, or 
even, in any sense, original ; it was that of Marl- 
borough when, after Blenheim, he had intended to 
enter France ; it was that laid down by Clausewitz, 
perhaps, for Gneisenau, with a view to a contest 
with France after 1815. But it was distinctly the 
best that could be adopted, and it reveals a daring 
and accomplished strategist, bent on a grand and 
decisive offensive movement. The project of Moltke 
was carried out with a celerity and precision that 
showed how perfect the organization of the German 
armies had become. The orders for the assembly 
of these prodigious hosts were received on the 15th 
of July; the operation was completed in about 
sixteen days; and the working of the machinery 
to effect this object was so admirable that, Moltke, 
it is said, in reply to the anxious question of a 
friend, remarked, " I have nothing to do ; my 
arrangements are made." The corps d'armee, 
collected, and formed on the spot, had soon called in 
their reserves at hand ; their material hard by was 

quickly supplied ; and the gathering masses were 

I 2 

116 MOLTKE. 

rapidly conveyed, by the military system of the 
German railways, from the Niemen, the Vistula, 
the Oder, and the Inn, and westward from the 
Lower Moselle to the Rhine, and the tract on its 
western bank, the Palatinate and the Rhenish 
Provinces. Three large armies were now formed, 
on the system of 1866 ; the First, composed ^ of two 
corps for the present, and numbering about 60,000 
men, under the command of the old and gallant 
Steinmetz; the Second, 130,000 strong at least, 
four ^ corps, led by Prince Frederick Charles ; and 
the Third formed of five^ corps, a combined Northern 
and South German army, about equal in force to 
the Second, and under the direction of the Crown 
Prince of Prussia. These masses, however, fully 
320,000 men, were sustained in second line by a 
gigantic reserve,^ five corps, excellent and trained 
soldiers ; and the forces collected for the invasion 
of France already numbered half a million of men, 
with guns and cavalry in due proportion, drawn 
together in little more than a fortnight. By the 
end of July the First Army, the right wing of the 
coming invasion, held the region around Treves 
and Lower Sarre ; the Second, the centre, was 
assembled about Mayence, and thence extended 

1 The 7th and 8th Prussian corps. 

- The 3rd, 10th, and 4th Prussian corps, and the Guards, 

2 The 5th and 11th Prussian corps, two Bavarian corps, the 
1st and 2nd, and two divisions of Wurtemberghers and Badeners, 
equal to one corps. 

* The 1st corps to be added to the First Army, the 9th, 12th, 
and 2nd to join the Second, and the 6th to support the Third. 


along the main roads leading througli the Pala- 
tinate towards the verge of Lorraine ; and the 
Third Army, the left wing, had its centre at 
Landau, filling the country between Neustadt and 
Spires, and already overhanging Alsace. A con- 
centration of force, so rapid and complete, had 
never been witnessed before in war, and it was 
powerfully aided by the enthusiastic ardour of the 
Teutonic race from the Niemen to the Moselle. Ger- 
mans disliked the conflict of 1866, but the nation 
in 1870 sprang, as a man, to arms to avenge old 
wrongs and more recent injuries, on the enemy of 
Rossbach, of Jena, of Waterloo. 

The Emperor, meanwhile, had lingered at Metz, 
and no important change had been made in the 
disposition of the Army of the Rhine, the mass of 
which lay spread on the French frontier, along 
the borders of LoiTaine and Alsace. In the judg- 
ment of its chief, it was still not ready to take the 
field and to begin to move, though great efforts 
had been made, during the last few days, to furnish 
it with the needs it required, and considerable rein- 
forcements had been added by degrees. It is probable 
however that, at this conjuncture, a real commander 
would have found the means of directing it against 
the enemy in his front, and of retarding at least 
the German invasion, if not of gaining important 
success. On the last day of July, and for a day or 
two afterwards, the First Army on the Lower Sarre 
and at Treves stood isolated, and without supports 
at hand ; three corps of the French army and the 

118 MOLTKE. 

Imperial Guard were only two or three marclies 
distant, and it is difficult to suppose that ^ 100,000 
men, supplied with all that was necessary for the 
march, might not have been moved against the 
60,000 of the First Army, and have fallen on it in 
overwhelming strength. Villars had taken a step 
like this, with excellent results, when confronting 
Marlborough on this very ground in the indecisive 
campaign of 1705 ; and had it been taken by 
Napoleon III., the Army of the Rhine, after partial 
success, would probably have found the means of 
retreating safely, and of stubbornly defending the 
line of the Moselle, as Villars had done, with 
ultimate success. The Emperor, however, was 
not a great general ; he let a good opportunity 
pass, and he was, besides, wholly unable to direct 
the large mass of the Army of the Rhine, which, 
unlike the independent German armies, remained 
altogether under his sole command. Instead of the 
bold offensive, which was, at least, promising, he 
adopted a perilous and weak half measure, to satisfy, 
it would seem, the Parisian populace, already cla- 
mouring for an advance to the Rhine. On the 2nd 
of August a small German detachment was assailed 
by a largely superior force at Sarrebruck on the 
Middle Sarre, but an idle demonstration could have 
no effect ; the French did not even cross the river, 

1 This operation, and the probable results, are fully and clearly 
explained by General Derrecagaix, " La Guerre Moderne," vol. i. 
pp. .512-13. See also "La Guerre de 1870," by V. D., p. 98. 
The " Prussian Staff History " is silent on the subject. 


and the Army of the Rhine remained in its campa. 
By this time, indeed, indecision and alarm were 
predominant in the French Councils. Intelligence 
had been received that the German armies were 
approaching the frontier in immense strength, but 
nothing definite had been ascertained ; and, though 
attempts at reconnoitring on a great scale had 
been made, the French cavalry, unskilled in this 
service, had been unable to discover the real position 
of affairs. In these circumstances. Napoleon III. 
maintained his passive and expectant attitude, the 
worst possible in view of impending events. 

The hurried advance of the chief part of the 
Army of the Rhine to the French frontier, deficient 
as it was in requirements for the field, had induced 
Moltke to believe, for a time, that the French 
intended to take a bold offensive ; he had made 
preparations for a defensive stand, and he did not 
push forward the G-erman armies for a few days 
after they had been assembled. The puny attack 
at Sarrebruck, however, and the continued inaction 
of the Army of the Rhine, facts made known at the 
head-quarters at Mayence, through the excellent 
exploring of the German horsemen, soon made the 
situation clear to him ; and orders were given for an 
immediate advance to the frontier. The First and 
Second Armies drew near each other, the one making 
for the Middle Sarre, the other marching in the 
same direction, behind the western slopes of the 
German Vosges, along the main avenues into 
Lorraine ; and thus the prospect of striking the 

120 MOLTKE. 

First Army, and beating it in detail, disappeared. 
The Third Army, meanwhile, had all but reached 
Alsace prepared to deal the first weighty blow, and 
to begin the great general offensive movement, which 
was to force the French northwards and to uncover 
Paris ; and the three armies had, by the 4th of 
August, their foremost divisions quite near the 
frontier. The march of the invaders was carefully 
screened by bodies of horsemen, thrown forward, 
and keeping away the enemy's patrols ; and the 
French seem to have been unaware of its signifi- 
cance, and even as to its true direction, until the 
reality was ascertained too late. 

Turning to the opposite camp we must next glance 
at the situation of the Army of the Rhine, already 
within reach of the destructive tempest. Of its 
eight corps two were all but out of the account, one^ 
being upon the Marne at Chalons, and the other, far 
to the south, round Belfort,^ though this had de- 
spatched a single division northwards. Six corps 
therefore only remained, and these, by this time 
210,000 strong, spread along the frontier, in dis- 
jointed parts, and dangerously exposed to a bold 
attack. One corps ^ was behind Sarrebruck, on 
the Middle Sarre, two ^ being immediately in the 
rear ; the Imperial Guard was not far from Metz, 
and these masses, perhaps 135,000 men, formed the 
left wing of the whole army. A^ single corps, 

' The 6th and 7th corps respectively. 

2 The 2nd corps. ^ r^j^^ ^^^ ^^^ ^^j^ ^^^p^^ 

* The 5th corps. 


about 25,000 strong, was in the centre, holding at 
Bitohe a chief passage through the French Vosges ; 
and another ^ corps and a part of that at Belfort, 
perhaps 50,000 men in all, and composing the right 
wing of the French army, were on the northern 
verge of Alsace. 320,000 men, therefore, the first 
line of the German invasion, well led, well combined, 
and acting well in concert, were about to fall on 
210,000, unprepared, separated at wide distances, 
and, for the most part, under inferior chiefs. 

The Third Army, as Moltke had arranged, was 
the first to pour over the French frontier. Its 
advanced divisions had surrounded the old town of 
"Wissembourg, famous for the lines of Villars, by the 
forenoon of the 4th of August ; and it had soon 
been engaged with a single French division, impru- 
dently thrown forward without supports, in com- 
plete ignorance of the German movements. The 
French made a stern and prolonged resistance, but 
they were overwhelmed by the converging masses 
of enemies, fourfold at least in numbers ; and the 
division, losing more than a third of its men, 
was driven, in rout, upon the main body. This 
was the right wing of the Army of the Rhine, com- 
posed of the 1st corps and of a part of the 7th, and 
under the command of Marshal Macmahon, the Ney 
of the days of the Second Empire ; and it was in 
positions around Worth, a strategic point of no 
small importance, covering roads that lead to Stras- 
bourg and across the Vosges. Macmahon was 
' The 1st corps. 

122 MOLTKE. 

now aware that the Germans were at hand, but, 
extraordinary as it may appear, he had no concep- 
tion of the immense superiority of their approaching 
forces, his cavalry had been so ill employed ; and, 
even after the defeat of Wissembourg, he thought 
for a moment that he could take the offensive, and 
he did not at once call to his aid the corps at Bitche, 
the 5th, directed by General Failly, which the 
Emperor had placed under his orders. Even on 
the 5th he did not believe that anything like serious 
peril was near, and it was not until the following 
day that he requested Failly to join hands with 
him, and that with one division only, a proof how 
little he understood the true state of affairs. 

As a battle, however, might be imminent, he drew 
up his army along the heights near Worth before 
nightfall upon the 5th, and his confidence, it is said, 
was so great that he exclaimed to his staff, " The 
Prussians will be badly worsted." The position was 
one of great strength against a direct attack made 
by foes not in overpowering numbers. The stream 
of the Sauer ran before the Marshal's front, a 
difficult obstacle to an advancing force ; his lines 
were protected by the villages of Froschwiller, 
Elsasshausen, and Morsbronn, defensive points 
that had been in part fortified ; the slopes which 
the enemy would be compelled to ascend were in 
most places very intricate ground, and yet they 
afforded facilities at certain spots for counter 
attacks, essential for defence, especially in the case 
of French soldiers. The position, however, was 


liable to be turned on both flanks, and dense woods 
on either side of the French army would give a 
powerful adversary a marked advantage to conceal 
and combine his attacks. Macmahon placed his 
divisions along the line ;^ his force, allowing for the 
loss at "Wissembourg, was probably about 46,000 
men, including 5000 horsemen a ad 120 guns. 

The Crown Prince meantime had been making 
ready for a decisive effort against Macmahon' s 
army. He had ascertained the position and the 
strength of the French by pushing forward his 
bodies of horsemen, but he did not contemplate a 
general attack until he had all his corps in hand, 
an event not probable until the 7th of August. An 
accident, however, or it is more likely the impetuous 
zeal of subordinate chiefs, precipitated dangerously 
a hard fought battle. On the morning of the 
6th the 5th Prussian corps fell boldly, near "Worth, 
on the French centre, and the attack was sup- 
ported by the 2nd Bavarian corps issuing from the 
woods on Macmahon's left. These efforts, however, 
completely failed, and though part of the 11th 
Prussian corps soon came into line, and the supe- 
riority of the German artillery was proved even 

^ There is no French official account of the war, but the careful 
analysis made by General Derrecagaix, in "La Guerre Moderne," 
the narrative of V. D., and many tracts and books written by 
distinguished French officers, in some measure supply a lamentable 
desideratum. These works should be read to check the " Prussian 
Staff History," not always trustworthy, especially as regards the 
numbers engaged in several battles, no doubt in order to conceal 
the overwhelming superiority, as a rule, of the Germans in force. 

124 MOLTKE. 

from the first moment, tlie difficulties of the attack 
were great, and the French, possessing much the 
better small-arms and skilfully making offensive 
returns, had for three or four hours a distinct 
advantage. The condition of the Germans, indeed, 
had become so critical that orders arrived from the 
Crown Prince to suspend the course of the fight 
for a time, and it has been thought that had Mac- 
mahon seized the favourable opportunity, at this 
moment, he might have forced his enemy to draw 
off beaten. The presence of mind, however, and 
the self-reliance of Kirchbach, the chief of the 5th 
corps, inclined the scale trembling in the balance ; 
he refused to give up the doubtful struggle, and he 
was thanked for his bold resolve by the Crown 
Prince, who reached the field soon after mid-day. 
By this time the remaining part of the 11th corps 
had joined in the contest, the Wiirtemberghers 
being a short way in the rear, and determined 
efforts were made to turn Macmahon's right, while 
the 5th corps fell on the French centre. The 
pressure of superior numbers at last told, notwith- 
standing admirable charges of the French infantry, 
who more than once drove their enemies back, 
entangled as they were in difficult ground ; the 
Germans, sheltered by ravines and woods, gradually 
established themselves on their enemy's flank, and 
the French right wiug was compelled to fall back 
towards the centre round Elsasshausen. A noble 
incident, however, marked its defeat : the French 
cavalry made an heroic attempt to protect their 


comrades as they retired, and tliough tliey were 
almost wholly destroyed by a withering fire in the 
street of Morsbronn, one of the finest charges in 
the annals of war recalled the historic days of 
Eylau and Waterloo. 

During all this .time the 5th corps had been 
making a furious onslaught on Macmahon's centre, 
while the 2nd Bavarian corps had renewed its 
attack from behind its wooded screen on the French 
left; but decisive success was not achieved, until 
the 1st Bavarian corps, coming on the field, made 
the overwhelming pressure impossible to withstand. 
Another splendid division of the French cavalry 
offered itself up a victim to shield the footmen ; 
but, gradually the defence began to slacken, and 
the beaten army to show signs of panic. Never- 
theless some brave regiments clung tenaciously to 
every point of vantage to the last ; and it was not 
until their foes, in irresistible force, had converged 
against them on both flanks, had stormed Frosch- 
willer and Elsasshausen, and had pierced Mac- 
mahon's centre right through, that the battle can 
be said to have come to an end. The whole French 
line then precipitately gave way, and the roads 
through Alsace swarmed with aff*righted fugitives, 
hurrying away in despair and hideous rout. The 
retreat was in some degree covered by the arrival 
of the division of Failly's corps, summoned, we 
have seen, by Macmahon late ; but the victory of 
the Germans was not the less complete. The 
French army lost nearly half its numbers, reckoning 

126 MOLTKE. 

prisoners, and a fourth part of its guns ; the losses 
of the Germans were nearly 10,000 men, a proof 
how fierce the conflict had been; but they had 
almost ruined their beaten enemy. Macmahon, 
who had fought to the last moment, did not 
attempt to retreat towards the -main French army, 
through the passes of the Vosges, in his rear ; he 
made through Lower Alsace with the wreck of his 

At Worth, 46,000 Frenchmen and 120 guns, 
these very inferior to those of the enemy, had been 
opposed to 100,000 Germans, and not less than 
300 guns, and the issue of the contest had been 
long uncertain. The battle is honourable to France 
in the highest degree ; but had it been conducted 
on the German side with due regard to the prin- 
ciples of war, it could not have lasted for this space 
of time. The attacks of the Germans were, at 
first premature ; until after noon they were badly 
combined, and the immense superiority in force 
of the Third Army was not felt until nearly the 
end of the struggle. This precipitate haste, and 
these imprudent tactics alone enabled Macmahon's 
army to protract the noble defence it made ; and 
had the battle followed the Crown Prince's design, 
the result would have been quick and decisive. 
The boldness and firmness of Kirchbach, however, 
in continuing the strife, when it had once begun — 
another among repeated instances of the charac- 
teristics of the Prussian leaders, acquired largely 
through Moltke's precepts — are worthy of the very 


highest praise ; and the German divisions supported 
each other admirably, when they had been at last 
collected for the decisive attack. 

Macmahon skilfully fought a very brilliant fight, 
if we regard Worth as an isolated fact only ; and 
the French soldiery, who formed the flower of the 
army, and who had perfect confidence in themselves 
and their chief, especially the cavalry, showed 
heroic qualities. Yet, if we examine the Marshal's 
conduct as a whole, and with reference to the 
military art, we perceive that it was a series of 
errors. It is difficult to understand, how, after the 
affair of Wissembourg, he was ignorant of the 
strength of the enemy in his front, and why he did 
not at once fall back from Worth. He ought, 
evidently, to have summoned the entire corps of 
Failly to his assistance on the 5th ; as he had 
made up his mind to fight, it was his obvious interest 
to have every available man on the field. He, no 
doubt, showed tactical skill at Worth, but he ought 
not to have made a hopeless attempt to resist, after 
both his flanks had been turned, and his centre 
broken ; and this was a main cause of the rout of 
his army. Above all, he ought to have effected his 
retreat on the main army, through the passes in his 
rear, and not have made an eccentric movement 
southwards ; this gave his enemy a most favourable 
chance to annihilate the remains of his forces, and 
it uncovered the centre and left of the Army of the 
Rhine, with the gravest and most disastrous 
results. The rout, however, of Worth was so 

128 MOLTKE. 

complete, that perhaps he had not his troops 
sufficiently in hand to direct their retreat in the 
true direction. 

A battle, meanwhile, of a very different kind, 
had been fought on the same day, far to the left of 
Worth, and west of the Yosges. The Germans, 
we have seen, had approached the frontier of 
Lorraine and Alsace by the 4th of August, and 
three divisions of the First and Second Armies, a 
fourth being at a little distance, had, by the follow- 
ing day, drawn near Sarrebruck. The French 
corps, the 2nd, under General Frossard, which had 
taken part in the demonstration of the 2nd, at the 
intelligence of the advance of the enemy, had fallen 
back from the plains behind the town, and had 
occupied a position near Forbach, along a series of 
heights in the midst of woods, extending from 
Spicheren to the village of Stiring. Kameke, the 
chief of the foremost German division, believed that 
his adversary was in full retreat, and having 
obtained the permission of his leader, Zastrow, 
fell boldly on the strong line of the French. The 
Prussian artillery again showed its superiority 
to that opposed to it, but the attack of Kameke 
at first failed, though his troops displayed the 
most determined courage. Another German divi- 
sion ere long came up, and though the French 
were in turn reinforced, the assailants gradually 
had the advantage ; a projecting eminence, called 
the Red Spur, was stormed by an heroic effort, and 
the Germans, as at Worth, made their footing good 


on their enemy's right, under the screen of a forest, 
which spread along this side of the French position. 

Up to this moment Frossard had thought that a 
real attack was not being made, and he had not even 
appeared on the field. He now, however, took his 
troops in hand, and sent oS" to the chief of the corps 
in his rear, making an earnest demand for imme- 
diate aid. But meanwhile the third Grerman divi- 
sion had joined in the fight, and made its presence 
felt, and while the battle raged along the front of 
the French, a bold effort was made to turn their 
left, and to seize Stiring, on which it rested. The 
struggle continued for some hours, each side 
fighting like good soldiers, though the destructive 
fire of the German batteries produced gradually 
marked effects ; .but no reinforcements reached 
the hard-pressed French ; and Frossard was 
already contemplating a retreat, when the ap- 
parition of the fourth hostile division, on his 
left, compelled him hurriedly to draw off his forces. 
Stiring was now captured and the whole position 
lost, but the retreat was conducted in good order, 
and the Germans did not attempt a pursuit. Their 
losses, indeed, exceeded those of the enemy, about 
4800 to 4000 men, but they had not the less gained 
important success. The defeat of Frossard laid 
Lorraine open, and broke the front of the Army of 
the Rhine. 

The Germans were at first inferior in force at 
Spicheren,^ but less so than is commonly supposed. 

' It is impossible even nearly to reconcile the German and 

130 MOLTKE. 

They were superior, however, at the close of the 
battle, without taking into account the last division, 
the presence of which determined the retreat of 
Frossard, and they were then probably about 
30,000 to 25,000 men. On the other hand, there 
was no feat of arms on the side of the French, 
compared to the storming of the Red Spur height, 
and the troops of the 2nd French corps were not 
equal in quality to those which Macmahon led. 
The most striking feature of the battle, certainly, 
was the contrast presented by the contending 
leaders. The attack of Karaoke was, no doubt, 
premature, as had been the original attack at Worth, 
but he was admirably seconded by his colleagues ; 
and here we see once more a remarkable instance 
of one of the best characteristics of the Prussians 
in command. How utterly different was the con- 
duct of the generals in the opposite camp ! Fros- 
sard wias not in the field until the afternoon; he 
was absent from his post at a momentous crisis, 
and he lost precious hours in applying for the aid 
which otherwise he might perhaps have secured. 
Yet this was by no means the worst : three French 
divisions, commanded by Bazaine, a name of evil 
repute in the war of 1870, were not ten miles from 

French accounts of the numbers engaged on either side at Spich- 
eren. " The Prussian Staff History " repeatedly assumes that the 
French Avere largely superior in force ; but this is denied by 
General Derrccagaix, " La Guerre Moderne," vol. i. p. 530. The 
French seem to have had at first the numerical advantage, but 
they were outnumbered at last. 


the scene of the conflict ; and if Frossard was late 
in seeking assistance, the sound of the battle ought 
to have prompted Bazaine to advance with all his 
troops to Spicheren. Had he taken this course, 
25,000 men would have been placed in the scale 
on the side of France, and the French must easily 
have gained a victory. Bazaine, however, remained 
inactive, and a fine opportunity was thrown away. 
From the day of Ron9esvalles to that of Waterloo, 
it has been a distinctive fault of the warriors of 
France to think of themselves only, and to neglect 
their comrades. 

Worth and Spicheren were the first act in the 
great drama of the war between France and 
Germany. The Emperor's plan for the campaign 
had failed ; he had been tried in the balance and 
found wanting. Moltke had perfectly carried out 
his fine strategic project, and France had been 
invaded in irresistible force. Gleams of the old 
lustre had shone on the French arms ; the conduct 
of Macmahon's soldiery on the field of Worth had 
been worthy of the heirs of Napoleon's legions. 
But the Germans were in overwhelming strength ; 
and not in numbers only, but in military worth, 
their armies were better than that of their enemy. 
They had been more quickly assembled in the field ; 
their organization was far superior ; they were 
better prepared, equipped, and trained for war ; 
in artillery, and in the art of exploring, by cavalry, 
they easily surpassed the French. The French 

army, on the contrary, was numericallv weak ; its 

K 2 

132 MOLTKE. 

administration had not fulfilled its functions ; it was 
sent to the frontier before it was ready ; it had a 
considerable admixture of bad soldiers ; and, owing 
to its deficiency in reconnoitring power, it was like 
a man with short sight fighting with a man endowed 
with perfect and true vision. Its leaders, too, were 
far behind those of the Germans ; not that a great 
military genius had appeared among these, but that 
the German generals were skilful, daring, and self- 
reliant, and especially acted well together, while the 
French generals were deficient in these respects. 
As to the supreme direction of the two armies, it 
would be absurd to compare Napoleon III. to 
Moltke, and the Emperor was already beset by a 
dijB&culty, which was to cause his ruin, the necessity 
he felt of yielding to opinion in Paris. It was this 
that led to the trifling of Sarrebruck ; it was this that 
kept his army upon the frontier when he knew that 
it was outnumbered two to one, and when a retreat 
had become his only safe course ; and it was this, 
we shall see, that made his advisers neglect mili- 
tary considerations for supposed reasons of state, 
and that precipitated an appalling catastrophe. He 
might plaintively assert,^ "All may yet be repaired," 
but dark clouds even now were lowering on France. 

^ The well-known phrase of the Emperor, "Tout pent se reparer," 
uttered after Worth and Spicheren, is an exact repetition of a 
remark of Napoleon after Waterloo. " Comment.," vol. v. p. 194. 


The German armies do not pursue the French after Worth and 
Spicheren — Opportunity lost by Moltke — Ketreat of the Army 
of the Rhine, in part towards Chalons, in part towards the 
Moselle — Projects of Napoleon III. — The main part of the 
French army falls back from the Nied to Metz — Advance of 
the German armies to the Moselle — Marshal Bazaine made 
commander-in-chief of the whole French army, including the 
part approaching Chalons — His first operations — The French 
attempt to retreat on Verdun — Battle of Colombey Nouilly 
or Borny — Advance of the Germans beyond the Moselle — 
Bazaine and the French army to the west of Metz — Battle o 
Mars La Tour — Bazaine falls back to a strong position outside 
Metz — What he might have accomplished — Advance of the 
Germans — Battle of Gravelotte — Its vicissitudes and charac- 
teristics — The French, at last defeated, are driven back on 
Metz — Reflections on this passage in the war, and on the 
conduct of Moltke and his adversaries. 

The double defeat of Worth and Spiclieren had 
broken up the Army of the Rhine. Macmahon, we 
have seen, had fled southwards to the right ; 
Frossard, on the left, had moved to Sarreguemines, 
exposing himself to an attack on his flank ; Failly, 
with the centre, had hurried away from Bitche, 
detaching part of his troops to the main army, and 
seeking, amidst many perils, to join Macmahon. 
The German leaders, however, did not press the 
enemy, as had happened after the victories that 

134 MOLTKE. 

preceded Sadowa ; and they did not turn tlieir 
immense success to advantage. In the belief that 
Macmahon had fallen back, as he ought to have 
done, on the main army, they sent a small force 
along the roads towards Bitche ; but when it was 
found that he had gone in another direction they 
did not attempt to molest his retreat. Frossard, 
again, was not even followed ; Failly was permitted 
to effect his escape, and to unite with the wreck of 
Macmahon's forces ; and, as had been witnessed 
in Bohemia before, contact with the foe was 
altogether lost. Moltke was not, perhaps, respon- 
sible for all this, for he was still many leagues in 
the rear ; but, at this moment, he did not contem- 
plate a determined pursuit of the French army, and 
it is characteristic in fact of him, that he seldom 
attempted to crush a defeated enemy, the very 
opposite, in this respect, to Napoleon. Without 
troubling himself with the movements of the French, 
he proceeded leisurely, but surely, to carry out the 
design which he had formed for the campaign, that 
is to make the success of the invasion certain, to 
drive his adversaries, beaten, to the north, and to 
secure an approach to the French capital. For this 
purpose the immense reserves of the German 
armies, alread}^ on the march, were hastened forward 
to the scene of events ; and five corps, ^ about 
150,000 strong, were added to the gigantic forces 

• The 1st corps joining the First Army ; the 9th, 12th, and 2nd 
the Second Army ; the 6th corps the Third Army. See ante. The 
2nd corps was still some marches in the rear. 


already spreading over Alsace and Lorraine. On 
the Sth of August, two days after Worth, the vast 
columns of the Third Army were directed through 
the passes of the Vosges ; and while the Baden 
division was told off to secure the flank, and to lay 
siege to Strasbourg, the left wing of the great 
invasion was marched to the Sarre, and thence to 
the Upper Moselle. Meanwhile, the First and the 
Second Armies, the right wing and centre of the 
German hosts, advanced slowly on the 10th of 
August through the table-lands and plains of 
Lorraine, the First Army forming the pivot of a great 
general movement on the Moselle, where the French 
army, it was supposed, was making a stand on the 
line between Metz and Thionville. 450,000 men, 
at least, were thus set in motion to overwhelm the 
remains of an army of 210,000, which had already 
suffered heavy reverses, which at this moment could 
hardly place 150,000 men on the course of the 
Moselle, but which, it was assumed, was in a strong 
position, resting on two fortresses covering its 

It is difficult to condemn the strategy, for, mani- 
fold as are the chances of war, it made ultimate 
success all but certain, and in the event it was more 
than justified, if this is no conclusive test of its 
merits. Moltke had resolved not to enter the 
interior of France without an overwhelming 
superiority of force, and this once secured he 
.might fairly expect that he would be able to effect 
his daring project. He therefore waited until his 

136 MOLTKE. 

reserves were at hand, and he moved, without an 
attempt at haste, to the Moselle, ever intent on the 
one great object in view. ISTor can it be denied 
that circumspection and caution were needed in the 
advance ; it was reasonable to expect that the 
French army would defend the formidable line of 
the Moselle, as Villars bad held it against Marl- 
borough ; the real state of that army and its chiefs 
could hardly be fully known in the German camp, 
and a great invasion of France had been always 
perilous. Nevertheless, an impartial student of war 
will i3robably think that in this instance Moltke let 
a grand opportunity slip, and failed to strike a 
blow that might have been decisive. He was in 
communication by the telegraph with the three 
armies, and it is not easy to understand why, after 
Worth and Spicheren, he did not at once follow his 
defeated enemy. A very slight effort of the Third 
Army would have simply annihilated Macmahon's 
forces, and probably would have destroyed Failly ; 
and had it sent even a small detachment across the 
Vosges, the First and Second Armies, with this 
support, could have crushed to atoms the remaining 
parts of the ^ Army of the Rhine, already beaten. 
In that event, a great and decisive victory might 
have been won about the lOtli of August, before the 
French army had had time to retreat, and the war 
would perhaps have come to an end without a 

^ This movement has been indicated by several Avriters ; and 
what Moltke might have accomplished is well shown by V. D., 
"La Guerre de 1870," pp. 213-17. 


desperate struggle protracted for months. Be this 
as it may, when on the path of victory Moltke was 
never to be even named with Napoleon, though 
the telegraph gave him an immense advantage, 
unknown in the days of Jena and Austerlitz, but 
the difference cannot be deemed surprising if we 
recollect that Moltke was in his seventieth year.^ 
It was certainly, also, a plain mistake that the 
French army was not kept in sight; this gave it 
ample time to escape had it been even rationally 
led ; nay, in spite of the overpowering strength of 
its foes, it afforded it, we shall see, more than one 
chance to strike with effect, perhaps to achieve 
great things had a real commander been at its 

Meanwhile the shattered Army of the Rhine, 
though not pressed as it ought to have been, had 
been effecting its retreat in distress and confusion. 
Macmahon, ultimately joined by Failly, after falling 
back towards Haguenau and Strasbourg, had marched 
hurriedly through the defile of Saverne ; and cross- 
ing the Upper Moselle and the Meuse, was, in obedi- 

^ In commenting on the operations of the Germans after Worth 
and Spicheren, Major Adams, though an enthusiastic admirer of 
Moltke, observes, " The one quality in which Von Moltke seems 
deficient is that of reaping the full and instantaneous fruits of 
victory. The time that was permitted to elapse after the first 
struggle lost to the Germans the opportunity of bringing the war to 
a brilliant and rapid conclusion," " Great Campaigns," pp. 014-15. 
Still, the thinker on war should ever Ijear in mind the sagacious 
remark of Turenne, "Memoires," p. 185 : " Souvent les personnes 
les plus habiles font des fautes qu'il est plus aise de remarquer que 
de prevenir." 



deuce to the commands of his ill-fated master, seek- 
ing a refuge near the great camp of Chalons, where he 
could rally the corps that had been placed at Belfort, 
the 7th, commanded by General Douay. The 
left wing and part of the centre of the French 
army, for the time not 140,000 strong, taking even 
into account the troops sent off by Failly, were 
thus left exposed to a crushing blow, which, how- 
ever, we have seen, was not struck, and they remained 
open to the irresistible attacks of an enemy almost 
threefold in strength, should they attempt to make 
a stand in Lorraine. In these circumstances J^Ta- 
poleon III. resolved to abandon the line of the 
Moselle, and ordered a general retreat on Chalons ; 
and this probably was the most judicious course, for 
if he could not expect to repeat the marvels of the 
campaign of 1814, his whole forces would have been 
drawn together, and Paris, a colossal fortress, would 
have formed a huge entrenched camp, most favour- 
able as a field of manoeuvre. 

Once more, however, the dread of the scorn of 
the capital had a fatal influence on the troubled 
Head of the State, who never should have been a 
general-in-chief. The Emperor was afraid to retreat 
so far ; and when it had become apparent that the 
German armies were not making a rapid advance, he 
resolved for a few hours to try to stand on the Nied, 
an affluent of the Sarre, to the east of Metz. The 
corps which had been formed at Chalons, the 6th, 
under Canrobert, the Crimean veteran, had been 
hurriedly directed to move upon Metz, and three- 


fourths of it had, ere long, reached the fortress, 
raising the numbers, therefore, of th.e army in 
Lorraine ^ to about 170,000 men, 10,000 of these 
probably being not effective troops. Macmahon, 
however, was not called up, though as yet he was 
far to the east of Chalons, and a single day sufficed 
to induce the Emperor to give up any project of 
accepting battle. The line of the Nied was too 
short to afford a good position of defence against a 
more powerful enemy ; and, at the intelligence of 
the approach of the Germans, the Frencli army was 
hastily directed on Metz, invaluable hours having 
been lost. The retreat was effected in severe 
weather;^ signs of insubordination, panic, and terror, 
had begun to show themselves among the Frencli 
soldiery, always sensitive either in victory or defeat ; 
and the attitude of their chiefs was despondent in 
the extreme. By the 12th of August the retiring 
army was in front of Metz on the eastern bank of 
the Moselle. It had not been molested by the slow 
moving enemy, and it might easily have made its 
way to Chalons, but for lamentable vacillation and 
weakness in command. 

' A careful comparison of many authorities seems to prove that 
the calculation is fairly correct. The figures given by Moltke, we 
shall see, are altogether wrong, and those of the Prussian Staff are 
not nearly correct. 

^ A good account of the state of the French army, in its re- 
treat on Metz, after Worth and Spicheren, at least as regards the 
troops in Lorraine, will be found in " Metz, par un officier superieur 
de I'armee du Rhin," p. 50. See also " Guerre de 1870," by 
Bazaine, pp. 42, 46. 

140 MOLTKE. 

During these lame and halting operations of the 
French, the invaders had been overrunning Lor- 
raine. The Third Army, detaching a few troops to 
mask the petty forts of the Vosges, but reinforced 
by an additional corps, had reached the Upper 
Moselle by the 14th of August, had taken possession 
of Lun^ville and jSTancy, the chief towns of the old 
Duchj'-, and already held the avenues leading to 
Paris. The First and Second Armies, strengthened 
by four corps, advanced along the great roads be- 
tween the Sarre and the Moselle, and spread over the 
adjoining region, at first extended on a wide front, 
but drawn towards each other when the news 
arrived that the French army was upon the Nied. 
When informed that the enemy was in full retreat, 
Moltke made arrangements for a further advance of 
the two armies upon the Moselle, which deserve the 
attention of students of war. He had lost sight of 
the French army, but he had been apprised that it 
was behind the Moselle, yet, as it was quite possible 
as was the case in fact, that it was concentrated east 
of the river, and in the neighbourhood of tlie great 
stronghold of Metz, his preparations were formed on 
this assumption. The First Army was directed to 
stand on the Nied, to observe and even to reach the 
enemy, and the most forward corps of the Second 
Army were ordered to attain and master the Moselle, 
so that, in conjunction with the Third Army, they 
should be able to take part in the great movement, 
which was to send the French northward and to lay 
open Paris. The march, however, of the Second 
Army was a march across the front of a still power- 


To face page \\\. 


f ul foe, under the protection of a stronghold of the 
first order ; and this flank march, to use technical 
language, was admirably screened by dense masses 
of horsemen, which covered all the approaches from 
Metz. On the supposition, however, that the Erench 
were at hand, two corps of the Second Army were 
moved to support the First Army, should it be 
assailed, and the combined forces were so placed 
that, in Moltke's judgment, they would possess the 
means of falling on their enemy in front and flank. 
By this time the stress of opinion in the camps of 
the French had compelled the Emperor to give up 
his command. Marshal Bazaine, who had been 
already placed at the head of the army still in Lor- 
raine, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th corps, the Imperial 
Guard, and the 6th corps just arrived at Metz, was 
nominated, on the 12th of August, Commander-in- 
Chief of the whole French army, including the 
corps of Macmahon, Failly, and Douay, the 1st, 
5th, and 7th, on their way to Chalons. Every 
allowance ought to be made, in justice, for a general 
who, at a moment's notice, received a command in 
the grave straits in which the Marshal was even 
now placed, that is, who undertook to direct a 
defeated army, threatened by an enemy in over- 
powering strength, and separated from its supports 
by a wide distance ; and if Bazaine, in the progress 
of events, was to prove himself the evil genius of 
France, his first operations are not to be harshly 
judged. It is remarkable indeed that, at the out- 
set, the Marshal wished to adopt a course, which 
might have given the French arms a victory, nay, 

142 MOLTKE. 

have had a marked effect on events, had he followed 
it up with boldness and energy. Moltke, we have 
seen, had left the First Army on the Med, and had 
placed two corps sufficiently at hand, as he thought, 
to afford it aid in the event of an attack from 
Metz,^ but this calculation was not accurate ; had 
the French army fallen on the enemy, in collected 
force, on the 13th of August, it ought to have de- 
feated the First Army before the two corps could 
have reached the field, ^ and Bazaine contemplated 
this very movement, though not probably fully 
aware of the facts, or of the advantage he might 
have won. 

Indecision, however, and want of firmness of pur- 
pose, combined with indolence and dulness of mind, 
were the characteristics of Bazaine, as a chief, and 
he gave proof of these qualities from the first, 
though we repeat he is not yet to be lightly con- 
demned. The Emperor, if no longer in command, 
still had the influence that belongs to a sovereign ; 
he entreated the Marshal to fall back at once to 
conduct the army across the Moselle, and, leaving 
Metz, to hasten on to Verdun, with a view of reach- 
ing Chalons at last, and it is only just to remark 
that this was the advice of nearly all the French 
generals on the spot. The Marshal gave up his 

1 This is very clearly shown by General Derrecagaix, " La Guerre 
Moderne," ii. p. 57. A fault was, no doubt, left in the German 

2 " L'Armce du Rhin " par le Marechal Bazaine, p. 51 ; " Guerre 
de 1870," par I'ex-Marechal Bazaine, p. 62. These works, the 
apologies of the unfortunate Marshal, are of little intrinsic merit, 
but deserve attention. 


offensive project, he ordered an immediate retreat 
on Verdun, and, by tlie morning of the 14th of 
August, the French army was defiling through 
Metz, and passing the Moselle on its way to the 
Meuse. The march was halting and slow in the 
extreme, the columns were delayed and entangled 
as they wound through the streets and alleys 
of the town ; the mass of the impedimenta was 
immense, but though Bazaine ^ has been severely 
censured for not having bridged the Moselle more 
fully to expedite the march of his troops,^ the charge 
appears to be not justified. It was otherwise cer- 
tainly when the army had begun to get clear of 
Metz and its hindrances, and had crossed the 
Moselle to continue the retreat. Two main roads 
led from Metz to Verdun, one by Gravelotte, and 
thence in two large branches, by Mars La Tour, 
Woevre, and to the north by Etain, the other still 
further north, by Briey, and lesser roads ran into 
these great avenues from many points of the town 
and the fortress. The Marshal, however, crowded 
his whole army on the single main road, forming one 
line only, until it divides into two at Gravelotte; he 
made little or no use of the secondary roads, and 
obviously this was a palpable error, for the retrograde 
movement was delayed for hours, when celerity was 
of supreme importance. 

By the afternoon of the 14th of August, consider- 

1 See the Eeport of Genera! Riviere, p. 22, This report, however, 
is really the official indictment of Bazaine at his trial, and is charged 
■with every kind of accusation, true or not. 

' " L'Armee du Rhin," p. 48 ; '' Guerre de 1870," p. Gl. 

144 MOLTKE. 

ably less than half of the French army had crossed 
the Moselle and reached the west of Metz. But 
the clouds of dust which announced the retreat, 
and the reports of patrols and perhaps of spies, 
had attracted the attention of the generals of the First 
Army placed, we have seen, by Moltke on the Nied ; 
and just as had happened at Worth and Spicheren, 
these leaders resolved to attack the enemy before 
waiting for the direction of the general-in-chief . 
At about 5 p.m. two Prussian divisions had advanced 
along the main roads from the Sarre to Metz, on 
Colombey and Nouilly and the outposts of the 
French, and an extending line of fire marked the 
course of a battle along the eastern front of the 
great neighbouring stronghold. The French seem 
to have been almost surprised, and the enemy 
threw them back for a time, taking possession of 
more than one point of vantage, but they really 
were superior in force at first ; and parts of the 
3rd and 4th corps, commanded by Generals Decaen 
and L'Admirault, had ere long brought the assail- 
ants to a stand. A furious conflict now raged for 
a time, marked by the usual feature of these 
engagements, the ascendancy of the Prussian guns, 
and the superiority of the French rifle, and Bazaine, 
who had hastened to the spot, showed considerable 
skill in directing his troops, though he did not 
employ his great reserves at hand. The arrival at 
last of another Prussian division, and of the ad- 
vanced guard of one of the two corps which had 
been placed to support the First Army, compelled, 


however, the Marshal to retreat at nightfall, and 
the French retired slowly under the guns of Metz. 
They had not been defeated from a tactical point 
of view ; the battle in fact was drawn, as a mere 
passage of arms, and the Germans had suffered far 
the most heavy loss, 5000 compared to 3400 men. 

Bazaine had been a good soldier in this fierce 
encounter, and had even inspired his disheartened 
troops with -confidence. But he had shown want 
of capacity as a general-in-chief, and he had missed 
an occasion which he might have seized. The 
Guard, and part of the 2nd French corps, were on 
the spot, and had he sent this formidable reserve 
to the aid of the 3rd and the 4th corps he must 
have defeated the Prussian divisions, and possibly^ 
have even beaten the First Army in detail. He was, 
however, a man of weak half measures, like most 
inert and incompetent chiefs ; he never thought of 
recurring to his former design, and though he 
might have attacked with a fair prospect of success, 
he was satisfied when he had merely kept back 
the enemy. Moltke, on the other hand, drew 
fruitful results from this hard-fought and prolonged 
battle, known as Colombey Nouilly or Borny. 
He had not probably wished the blow to be struck, 
though he had made preparations for an event of 
the kind, but the conflict had still further retarded 
the slow retreat of the French from Metz ; and he 
saw an opportunity, owing to this delay, of inter- 

' See V. D., " Guerre de 1870," p. 215, and authorities cited in 


146 MOLTKE. 

cepting Bazaine on his march, and of striking him 
before he could reach Verdun ; success in this 
operation being a further step in the fundamental 
scheme of his strategy, to force the enemy north- 
ward and to expose Paris. By this time a part of 
the Second Army, the movement masked, we have 
seen, by cavalry, had taken possession of the line 
of the Moselle, between Dieulouard and Pont a 
Mousson, at no considerable distance from Metz, 
and the remaining corps, save one, was at hand. 
Moltke's orders were issued on the 15th of August ; 
the First Army was to approach the Moselle, draw- 
ing near the southern part of Metz, and leaving one 
corps in observation in the rear, and the great mass 
of the Second Army was to press forward west- 
wards, and, having passed the Moselle, was to 
endeavour to close on the line of the enemy's retreat 
and to cut him off from Verdun and the Meuse. 

This contrast between the remissness of Bazaine 
and the insight and energy of his antagonist must 
be evident to every student of war. The Germans, 
meanwhile, had been advancing even before Moltke's 
arrangements were complete, and throughout the 
15th of August they had been gathering on the 
Moselle. By the evening of that day the First 
Army, the right wing of the immense invasion, had 
two corps, the 8th and the 7th, near the region 
between the Moselle and its feeder, the Seille, the 
attendant cavalry approaching Metz, and one corps 
only, the 1st, was in the rear. The Second Army, 
the centre, having a single corps, the 2nd, not yet 


come into line, and communicating on the left by 
one corps, the 4th, with the Third Army, the left 
wing, round Nancy, had five corps ready for the 
great march westwards, the 3rd, the 10th, the 
Gruards, the 9th and the 12th, this colossal force 
being on either bank of the Moselle ; and everything 
had been prepared for the decisive movement, next 
day, to intercept the retreating enemy. Here, how- 
ever, a great mistake was made, which might have 
been followed by evil results. Moltke had wished 
that the mass of the Second Army should sweep 
circuitously round on the retiring French, holding 
the various roads from Metz to Verdun ; in this 
way they would surely be cut off, and compelled to 
fight a disastrous battle. Prince Frederick Charles, 
however, the chief of the Second Army, seems to 
have thought that this movement would be too late, 
and that Bazaine was already not far from the 
Meuse, and, modifying the general orders he had 
received, he despatched one corps, the 3rd, towards 
the main road leading to Verdun, by Mars La Tour, 
and he sent another, the 10th, in the same direc- 
tion, but at a considerable distance to the left. 
The object of these operations was, no doubt, to 
pursue Bazaine, to press on his rear, and to force 
him to stand at bay and to fight ; and as the Prince 
communicated, at least in part, the new dispositions 
he had made to the headquarters at Pont a Mousson, 
Moltke, in some measure perhajDs, was accountable 
for them.^ 

^ That this is a fairly accurate account of these operations, 

L 2 

148 MOLTKE. 

The advanced patrols of the German cavalry, 
exploring far beyond the bodies in the rear, had 
approached Mars La Tour on the 15th of August, 
and had met and defeated some squadrons of French 
horsemen. By the morning of the 16th the 3rd 
Prussian corps had drawn near the great road from 
Metz to Verdun, by Mars La Tour, as had been 
directed, and the 10th was on the way by Thiau- 
court, nearly half a march distant. Meanwhile the 
French army, under Bazaine, had been continuing 
its retreat from Metz, but its movements had been 
more than ever slow. The battle of the 14th had 
greatly retarded its advance ; the masses of troops, 
collected on a single road, and the huge trains of 
supplies and munitions had proceeded almost at a 
snail's pace, and the 4th corps had been compelled 
to follow the northern road, towards Briey, in order 
to avoid confusion. The retreat, indeed, had been 
much more tedious than the German commanders 
could have supposed, and Prince Frederick Charles 
had been deceived when he had heard that his 
enemy was near the Mouse. On the morning of the 
16th the retiring army was still but a short way 
from Metz, the left wing and centre, the Guard, 
the 2nd and the 6th corps being around the great 
road by Mars La Tour, from Rezonville, and Vion- 

may, we think, be gathered from the " Prussian Staff History," 
vol. i. pp. 351, 355. Attempts have been made to show that 
Prince Frederick Charles was in no sense responsible, but these 
are certainly futile. The responsibility of Moltke is much more 
doubtful, but may be, we believe, inferred. 


ville, to Verneville northwards, the right wing, the 
3rd and the 4th corps, being in the rear, north- 
wards also, and but a few miles distant. The 
Emperor by this time had left the army — he had 
abandoned the helm of the imperilled ship — and his 
departure had removed the chief influence that had 
directed the French to seek Verdun and the Meuse. 
It would be absurd to charge Bazaine with the 
sinister conduct attributed to him, even at this 
time, by violent partisans and time-servers ; but he 
had never approved of the march towards Verdun ; 
he had a strange longing to stay around Metz, and 
when his master was gone he began to hesitate. 
He ordered a general halt for the forenoon of the 
16th, ostensibly to enable his 3rd and 4th corps to 
come into line with the rest of the army, and he 
already looked back with regret, there can be little 
doubt, to the stronghold he had been induced to 
leave. The general result was that the French 
army, about 140,000 strong in the field, was 
collected within a space comparatively small, while 
a single Prussian corps, with another far off, was 
near this formidable mass, and within striking dis- 
tance. Had Bazaine been a real commander, he 
ought to have swept his enemy, routed, from his 

These operations led to the battle of Mars La 
Tour, one of the most memorable of the war of 
1870-1, and perhaps the most glorious to the 
German arms. On the morning of the 16th of 
August, a body of Prussian cavalry, detached by 

150 MOLTKE. 

the chief of the 10th corps, and supported by a few 
thousand infantry, fell on a larger body of French 
horsemen, reconnoitringround the hamlet of Vionville 
on the great road by Mars La Tour, and put the enemy, 
discreditably surprised, to flight. Ere long a single 
division of the 3rd Prussian corps, one of the most 
distinguished of the Prussian army, had, obeying 
its orders, reached the scene ; it was preceded by 
another division of horsemen, and its chief, Alvens- 
leben, probably in the belief that he was in the 
presence of an enemy in retreat, attacked the 2nd 
French corps of Frossard, part of the left wing of 
Bazaine's forces. The attack was, for a time, re- 
pelled, but the second division of the 3rd corps had 
soon come to the aid of its comrades, and, after a 
protracted struggle, in which, as always, the Ger- 
man artillery had the advantage, the corps of 
Frossard, beaten at Spicheren, and diminished by a 
division left behind at Metz, was driven back on 
the reserves in the rear, and the villages of Vion- 
ville and Flavigny were lost. By this time 
Bazaine had appeared on the spot ; he skilfully 
withdrew his shattered troops, and filled the gap 
that had been made in his line, with part of the 
Imperial Guard left carefully in the rear, and this 
movement, covered by a fine charge of horsemen, 
completely restored the Marshal's battle. Alvens- 
leben, however, persisted in fighting what was 
evidently an army with his one corps, and before 
long, Canrobert and the 6th corps had fallen in 
force on the hard-pressed Germans. The unequal 


contest was nobly maintained, but the approach of the 
8rd French corps, now under Le Boeuf — its former 
chief had fallen on the 14th — compelled the 3rd 
corps to retreat by degrees, and probably it would 
have been severely worsted, but for the superiority 
of its well-served guns, and a magnificent effort 
made by the cavalry at hand. The Prussian squad- 
rons, "courageous unto death," like the French 
at Worth, charged the enemy drawing near, but 
more fortunate than the French at Worth, though 
hardly stricken, they were not destroyed, and they 
extricated the infantry from what might have been 
ruin, had the French made a well combined attack. 

The French army had, at first, been surprised, 
and the 2nd corps had been fairly beaten. Bazaine, 
too, had made no attempt to crush the single divi- 
sion which had dared to assail him, and the 6th and 
3rd French corps arrived on the field, successively, 
and in a defensive attitude. At last, however, the 
French were in line, in overwhelming strength com- 
compared to their enemy, and the approach of the 
4th corps of L'Admirault increased the huge pre- 
ponderance of force. The Marshal was entreated 
to give orders for a general attack from Mars La 
Tour on his right, to Rezonville on his left, and had 
this been given nothing could have saved Alvenslebeu 
from a crushing defeat.^ Bazaine, however, refused 
to advance ; he kept the great body of the Gruard 
inactive in the rear ; he insisted that the 6th and 
3rd corps should remain where they stood, and a 

' "La Guerre Moderne," General Derrecagaix, vol. ii. p. 221. 

152 MOLTKE. 

great opportunity was, indisputably lost. At about 
four in the afternoon, the heads of the 10th Prussian 
corps appeared on the ground and sustained the 
3rd, and before long the greater part of the main 
body hastened to the spot with the energetic good- 
will characteristic of the Prussian commanders, 
and in some measure redressed the balance of 
numbers. The 4th French corps, however, had 
come into line, and once more the pressure on the 
overmatched Germans became so intense, that 
they partly gave way, especially on their left near 
Mars La Tour. Another heroic effort of the 
Prussian cavalry, in which the French cavalry were 
driven from the field, succeeded in keeping the 
enemy back ; but certainly the 10th corps would 
have been in the gravest peril, had its adversaries, 
instead of holding their ground, collected their 
forces for a determined attack. Meanwhile a single 
division of the 8th Prussian corps, and a fraction of 
the 9th, had come to the aid of the 3rd, still 
struggling against superior numbers, and the terrible 
strain was, to a certain extent, relieved. Night 
closed on a bloody and protracted conflict, in which 
a few thousand men, if largely reinforced by degrees, 
had defied and baffled a whole army for hours, and 
in which neither side could lay a claim to victory. 
The losses of the Germans and French were about 
equal, from 16,000 to 17,000 men. 

The Prussians were not 25,000 strong in the 
first instance at Mars La Tour, and they seem at 
last to have been about 75,000. On the other hand 


the French must have had more than 90,000 men 
on the field, and they might have had fully 120,000.^ 
Yet, if we except the beaten troops of Frossard, 
the army of Bazaine fought extremely well, though 
the confidence of Worth had passed away, and had 
been transferred to the German camp. The reasons 
that a very superior force failed to defeat, nay to 
rout, a much weaker enemy, are apparent on a 
survey of the battle. The daring offensive assumed 
by the 3rd Prussian corps, the arrival of the 10th 
corps late, and the noble self-sacrifice of the 
Prussian cavalry, could not have deprived the 
French of a victory had Bazaine simply put forth 
his strength, and boldly attacked with his greatly 
more powerful forces. Inactive, halting in mind, 
and ever clinging to Metz, he kept his army 
passively on the spot, and would not allow it to seize 
success when before it, and he threw away one of 
the best chances ever offered to a soldier by fortune. 
Nothing, on the contrary, could have been finer than 
the tenacity and daring of the undaunted Germans ; 
and their leaders displayed their wonted energy, 
and gave each other, as usual, cordial support. 
Yet the conduct of Alvensleben in risking the 
attack, and especially on persisting in it, must be 
pronounced excessively rash, though it is very 
remarkable it received the approval of his superiors 
after the event. In truth he was less to blame than 

^ This estimate has been formed after a comparison of many 
authorities. The figures given by V. D., " Guerre de 1870," are 
grossly wrong. 

154 MOLTKE. 

Prince Frederick Charles, who, we have seen, 
had, probably owing to false reports, diverted the 
3rd and 10th corps from the positions they were 
intended to take, and had placed them too near 
the French army, with orders probably to attack, 
on the supposition that it was far from Metz, and 
was approaching the Me use in hasty retreat. 
Moltke was not responsible, at least at first, for 
what was an undoubted error, but he seems, we 
think, to have acquiesced in it, and if he did, all 
that can be said is that errors of this kind are 
inevitable in war. 

The French army passed the night on the field, 
exhausted, and without orders from its chief. The 
Germans expected to be attacked on the morning 
of the 17th, and sent forward every available man 
and horse, and had Bazaine been a capable leader, 
he might possibly even yet have brushed aside his 
enemy, and made good his retreat to the Mouse. 
This operation, however, would have been at best 
of doubtful, perhaps of disastrous, result, and he 
might have made a much grander move had he 
possessed energy, resource and insight. He was 
still in the neighbourhood of a vast fortress, with 
ample passages over a large river, an admirable 
position to make his army secure, and to prepare it 
for a great offensive effort ; and the communica- 
tions of the Germans from the Khine to the Moselle 
had been left exposed by their rapid advance to cut 
him off from the Mouse and Verdun. On the 17th 
of August one corps only of the First Army was to 


the east of Metz, five corps of tlae Second Army 
were far to the west, and even the last corps, the 
2nd, was on the Moselle, with directions to hasten 
towards the main body, and the Third Army was 
beyond Nancy, its chiefs thinking of a march on 
Chalons. Had Bazaine, therefore, withdrawn his 
forces with secrecy and swiftness into Metz, and 
issued from the fortress on the 18th of August, 
along the great roads leading to the Nied and the 
Upper Sarre, he might have overwhelmed the single 
hostile corps in his path, have seized, ravaged and 
cut in two the communications of his foes, and very 
possibly have raised the siege of Strasbourg. The 
Germans could not have had time to retrace their 
steps, and to ward off a tremendous stroke, and the 
Marshal, grasping the invaders, so to speak, by the 
back, would probably have gained important success 
and have retarded the German march for weeks, and 
would almost certainly have saved himself and his 
army.^ By a manoeuvre somewhat analogous, but 
of far more risk, the youthful Bonaparte turned 
defeat into victory, when, beaten at Caldiero, he 
marched through Verona, and, crossing the Adige, 
fell on Alvinzi's flank, after a fierce struggle on the 
dykes of Areola. 

^ This movement occurred to more than one French officer at 
the time, '' Metz Campagne et negotiations," p. Ill, and has been 
indicated by a series of writers. The problem has been admirably 
worked out by General Hamley, " Operations of War," pp. 329, 
332, ed. 1889. The "Prussian Staff History" and Moltke 
maintain a most suggestive silence. 

156 MOLTKE. 

The buzzard, however, is not the eagle, and 
Bazaine was not equal to an effort of this kind. He 
was a soldier, however, of some tactical skill ; he 
had great confidence, as his writings show, in the 
power of modern small-arms on the defensive ; and 
he had, we have seen, a fixed idea to keep fast to 
Metz. Under these impressions, he drew back his 
army towards the fortress, on the 17th of August, 
after being many hours in inaction ; he had 
abandoned the notion of a retreat on Verdun ; and ^ 
there seems to be no foundation for his assertion 
that this was inevitable from want of munitions 
and supplies. His next step was to select a strong 
position in the vicinity of Metz, where he might 
await the impending onset of the German army, his 
belief being that, by tactics of this kind, he would 
repel and ultimately ^ wear out his enemy. Such a 
position was formed near the west of Metz, along a 
range of uplands, extending to the left, from the 
village of Rozerieulles to Roncourt on the right, 
and fronting the great roads which lead to the 
Meuse, by Gravelotte, Doncourt, and to the north by 
Briey. This line in some respects was formidable 
in the extreme ; to the left it was protected by 
Metz ; the stream of the Mance ran like a fosse be- 
fore it ; it afforded cover to reserves in the rear ; and 
it was dotted with villages and large farm-houses 
which, nearly all, could be strongly fortified. 
Bazaine placed his four corps along this ground of 
vantage, a front of seven or eight miles in length ; 
' Riviere, '' Report," pp. 36, 38. =^ '^ L'Armee du Rhin," p. 67. 


the left, the 2nd, on either side of the great road 
from Metz to Gravelotte, the 3rd and 4th, the 
centre extending to Amanvillers ; and the 6th, the 
right, reaching St. Privat and Roncourt. The 
various resources of the miHtary art were employed 
to increase the means of defence ; batteries were 
carefully placed to bear on the enemy ; trenches and 
pits had been formed to shelter the infantry, and to 
afford ample scope to the deadly rifle ; and every 
hamlet and building had been made an outwork to 
repel the weight of the German onset. But the 
Imperial Guard was reserved in the rear, around the 
western forts of Metz, with an evident purpose to 
cling to the place ; and it was separated from the 
main army, and especially from the right wing, by 
a long interval of space. 

This position was one of extreme strength for 
passive defence — a bad method ia all ages, and 
especially so in modern war — but it had two marked 
and very grave defects. It afforded little facility 
for counter attacks at any point of the far extend- 
ing line ; and it was comparatively weak, at the 
extreme right, at Roncourt, a danger aggravated by 
the fact that the 6th corps of Canrobert had arrived 
from Chalons with but few sappers, and with 
hardly any tools to make field entrenchments. The 
Imperial Guard, too, was most wrongly placed, 
detached around Metz, and far from the army ; and 
strategically the position of Bazaine was unsafe, for 
he was about to accept a battle with his back to the 
Rhine, and his communications with France cut 

158 MOLTKE. 

off, and a real defeat would be probably fatal. We 
pass from the Frencli to the German camp, and to 
the operations of Moltke and his lieutenants. They 
had expected, we have said, an attack on the 17th, 
and had assembled all their forces at hand ; but as 
the enemy made no sign, it was resolved to resume 
again a determined offensive, and to fall on Bazaine 
and his army as quickly as possible. To effect this 
purpose five corps of the Second Army were brought 
together, during the course of the day, and placed 
near the main road from Metz by Mars La Tour, 
from Flavigny on the right to Hannonville on the 
left ; and the 2nd corps in the rear was ordered to 
come up. Meanwhile two corps of the First Army 
were collected on the right of the Second Army, and 
spread from Flavigny to the approaches to Metz ; 
and one corps was left on the eastern bank of 
the Moselle, to make demonstrations against the 
fortress. Nine corps d'armee, therefore,^ were to 
take part, more or less directly, in the great on- 
slaught to be made on the weakened five corps of 
the French, and to stifle the euemy under sheer 
weight of numbers. 

By this time, however, as had been seen before, 
contact with the French army had been lost, except 
at the point of the line near Metz, and this marked 
failing in Moltke' s strategy was to be attended 
with grave results. On the morning of the 18th of 

1 The 3rd, 10th, 9th, 12th corps, with the Guards, of the 
Second Army, and the 2nd corps in the rear; the 7th and 8th 
corps of the First Army and the 1st beyond the Moselle. 


August tlie German chiefs did not know where 
Bazaine was, and they were unable to direct the 
huge masses that spread along a front of nearly 
twelve miles, against the enemy, with any kind of 
certainty. Time, so precious in war, was lost, and 
Moltke's operations were at first tentative. The 
Second Army was moved northwards towards Don- 
court, and even near to Briey, on the supposition 
that the French were trying to retreat by the 
northern roads that led to the Meuse, and the 
First Army was kept where it stood. As it might 
turn out, however, as was suspected, that Bazaine 
was still near Metz, orders were given that if this 
should be proved the case, the Second Army should 
make a great wheel eastwards, and fall on the 
enemy when attained ; the First Army being made 
the pivot for this prolonged and circuitous move- 
ment. The Second Army was, therefore, at first 
sent in a direction far away from the French ; and 
the morning was advanced when it became manifest 
that these were prepared to accept battle, in front 
of the west of Metz. Even then a remarkable 
mistake was made. Bazaine's right wing, which 
reached, we have seen, Koncourt, was reported as 
extending to Amanvillers only, that is to the ground 
held in force by the centre ; and part of the Second 
Army was, at the first instance, directed towards 
Amanvillers chiefly, to outflank, as was supposed, 
the enemy. The great sweep was now made, and 
the German columns, admirably arrayed, marched, 
at intervals, over the space which separated them 

160 MOLTKE. 

from the Frencli army. The movement, however, 
had been retarded ; and, what obviously might 
become perilous, the exact position of Bazaine was 
not yet accurately known. ^ 

The great battle of the 18th of August, given 
the name of Gravelotte by the victors, was the con- 
sequence of these dispositions on either side. At 
about noon, the 9th Prussian corps, its chief 
believing that he had attained the extreme right of 
Bazaine, had become engaged with the enemy's 
centre, from La Folie on the left, to Amanvillers 
on the right ; and an order recommending him to 
pause in the attack, for the real situation of affairs 
was being discovered, arrived too late to make it 
safe to suspend the action. In this, as in so many 
instances, the French were, at first, surprised ; and 
the assailants, screened by masses of woodland, 
gained ground, and captured some petty outposts. 
But when the Prussians drew near the main position, 
the result of their error became manifest ; they were 
not outflanking the right of their foe, but striking 
his centre strongly entrenched ; and they were 
engaged, in front, with L'Admirault's 4th corps, 
and with part of the 3rd corps of Le Boeuf, superior 
in numbers and well prepared for defence. The 
9th corps bravely maintained the conflict ; but the 
French guns, trained to search all vulnerable points, 
and the murderous fire of the French infantry, 

^ These operations should be carefully studied in the " Prussian 
Staff History," vol. ii. pp. 1, 19, and in General Derrecagaix, "La 
Guerre Moderne," vol. ii. pp. 61, 67. 

GRAVELOTTE^ 2.45. p.m. 



fighting under shelter, and not to be reached, gave 

the troops of Bazaine an immense advantage, and 

the power of the Prussian artillery was not felt for 

a time. The Prussians in fact, though reinforced 

by degrees, might have been worsted had the French 

chiefs endeavoured to strike a bold counterstroke ; 

and they were only reHeved from peril by the 3rd 

corps, the heroes of Mars La Tour, hastening up from 

the rear. Meanwhile it had become certain that the 

right of Bazaine extended to Roncourt, that is miles 

beyond Amanvillers ; and the Guard and the 12th 

corps, having come into line with the 9th corps, 

between 1 and 2 p.m., were directed to make a 

general movement towards St. Privat and Roncourt 

beyond, in order to turn and outflank the enemy. 

This circuitous march, through intricate ground, 

required several hours to make ; but meanwhile, 

an outlying post of the French, the village of St. 

Marie, was successfully stormed by the 12th corps 

and the Prussian Guard. As nothing decisive, 

however, could be done until the great turning 

movement was well advanced, the battle on this side 

of the scene became for hours merely a contest of 

guns, in which the Prussian batteries, more 

numerous and with a better weapon, gained, by 

degrees, complete superiority over the French. 

Such was the position of affairs, until late in the 

afternoon, on the left and left centre of the great 

German line, and on the corresponding right and 

right centre of Bazaine. Meantime, far away on 

the other side of the battle, a terrible conflict was 


162 MOLTKE. 

raging between the French left and left centre and 
the First Army. The 7th and 8th corps of the 
veteran Steinmetz, supported by part of the 1st 
corps, which threatened Metz from the east of the 
Moselle, and effected^ a really powerful diversion, 
had come into action with the greatest part of the 
3rd French corps, and the 2nd corps of Frossard, 
extending along the line of uplands, from La Folic 
to Rozerieulles. The onset of the assailants was 
bold and well sustained, but they encountered a 
stern and tenacious resistance; Frossard, an en- 
gineer, had made the defences along his front 
prodigiously strong, and the French infantry, hidden 
in pits and behind field trenches, wrought frightful 
havoc with their far-reaching small-arms. At last 
St. Hubert, an important out-post on the great road 
from Metz to Mars La Tour, was stormed after a 
bloody struggle; other fortified points appeared 
abandoned, and Steinmetz thought that the enemy 
was about to fall back from the position, beaten. 
He gave orders for a grand general attack in the 
close columns of the days of his youth, and it was 
then seen how tremendous are the effects of arms of 
precision in the hands of an enemy. The French 
had never thought of retreating ; and the German 
masses, as they pressed forward along the main 
road and on either side of it, were devastated by a 
crushing fire, which mowed down the assailants in 

' This was only a demonstration, but sufficient attention has 
not been directed to it. It made Bazaine cling to Metz more 
closely than ever, and possibly paralyzed the Imperial Guard. 


heaps. An imprudent attack, in fact, altogether 
failed; the 7th and 8th Prussian corps were 
fairly beaten ; ^ and had their enemy at this crisis 
boldly fallen on, the German right wing would have 
been imperilled, with results disastrous to the 
battle as a whole. Ere long, however, the 2nd 
Prussian corps, which had hastened forward by a 
forced march, relieved the stress on Steinmetz and 
his troops ; and a counter-stroke, attempted late 
by the French, was feebly made and became fruit- 
less. The position, however, of the First Army 
was critical until the close of the day, and the 
French retained their positions until the last moment, 
along this front of the long line of battle. 

The contest, meanwhile, in the other part of the 
field, was going on with varying and long uncertain 
fortunes. After the capture of St. Marie, it had 
become, we have seen, a duel of guns, in order 
to enable the German masses to outflank the French 
right at St. Privat and E-oncourt. At about 
5 p.m. the battle began to rage again, and the 
weakened 9th corps made another attempt to 
advance and beat back the enemy's centre. The 
attack, however, was not successful ; and, up to the 
last, the 3rd and 4th French corps had the advan- 

' The Prussian Staff does not give an accurate or candid 
account of this episode of the battle. The defeat of the First 
Army is attested by many impartial witnesses on the spot. In 
fact Steinmetz, it is believed, at the express instance of Moltke, 
was dismissed from his command, and sent into honourable 

M 2 

164 MOLTKE. 

tage over their baffled foes. The day was now far 
spent, and the evening at hand ; the 12th, or Saxon 
corps, was gathering on Roncourt in its long and 
far-extending march, and the chiefs of the Prussian 
Guards deemed the time had come to make a 
determined attack on St. Privat, and to bring the 
desperate strife to a close. The effort, however, 
almost wholly failed ; the assailants were struck 
down by a destructive fire issuing from all parts of 
the fortified village ; and Canrobert and his men 
could boast with truth that the flower of the 
Prussian army perished under their blows. But, 
in the interval, the great turning movement was 
making itself felt on the French right ; and the 
Saxon columns drew near Roncourt, to outflank 
Bazaine's position, and to make it untenable. 
Canrobert had foreseen the danger for hours ; 
messenger after messenger had ridden to Bazaine 
entreating the assistance of the Imperial Guard, 
but the Marshal sent only a few guns, and a division, 
despatched afterwards, was too late. This conduct 
caused the loss of the battle ; Canrobert drew back 
his already shattered corps from Roncourt, known 
to be a weak point, and, isolated and deserted, he 
endeavoured, for a time, to make head against the 
flood of his enemies. But the French were out- 
numbered more than two to one ; the Saxons and 
the Guards drawing in towards each other stormed 
St. Privat after a furious struggle ; Roncourt had 
already fallen into their hands, and the arrival of 
the 10th Prussian corps on the scene inclined still 


further the balance of fortune. The French right 
was turned, as night fell on the scene ; and the 
army of Bazaine by degrees retired from the 
positions they could no longer hold. The battle, 
however, was only just won, and the issue might 
easily have been very different. The losses of the 
Germans exceeded 20,000 men ; those of the French 
were more than 12,000. 

At Gravelotte more than 200,000 ^ Germans, with 
from 700 to 800 guns, fought 120,000 or 130,000 
Frenchmen, with certainly less than 500 guns. 

' As usual, it is impossible to reconcile the conflicting estimates 
of the numbers engaged on either side at the battle of Gravelotte, 
but the above figures are, we believe, tolerably correct. An 
estimate made by Moltke in his " Precis of the Franco-German 
War," vol. i. p. 84, English translation, is wholly, nay grotesquely, 
erroneous. He says that only "seven corps faced the French ; " 
and he puts their numbers at 178,818 men. But he does not 
include the 2nd Prussian corps, which reached the field late, but 
gave valuable support to the 7th and 8th corps, nor yet part 
of the 1st corps of the First Army, which threatened Metz from 
the eastern bank of the Moselle ; and he thus omits fully 30,000. 
His calculations as to the French are even worse. He contends 
that "more than 180,000 French were engaged," because 173,000 
were in Metz when the fortress fell. But this figure of 173,000 
comprises the garrison of Metz, about 29,000 strong, a division of 
Frossard's corps, which was joined to the garrison, and a con- 
siderable assemblage of Gardes Mobiles, and franctireurs, not less 
than 20,000 men ; and none of these troops, probably from 60,000 
to 65,000 men, took part in the battle of Gravelotte. Even the 
Prussian Staff estimates Bazaine's forces at from 125,000 to 
150,000 men only ; Bazaine says they were 100,000 ; and General 
Hate ley asserts that the French " were outnumbered two to one." 
The high character of Moltke repels the charge of disingenu- 
ousness, but statements like these are very unfortunate. The 
Precis, however, compiled at the age of 87, is a bad book. 

166 MOLTKE. 

The ultimate results of the battle were immense ; 
but the splendour of the triumph that was yet to 
come ought not to blind the student of war to the 
character of the operations on either side. The 
great march of the German masses, in the morning 
of the 18th, was a very fine movement, remarkable 
for its precision and skill ; the Prussian leaders 
supported each other with the energy and zeal 
habitual to them, and their troops gave proof of 
devoted courage. But grave mistakes were cer- 
tainly made : the battle was begun rather too late ; 
the French centre was assailed, instead of the right, 
at first ; the grand attack of Steinmetz was almost 
reckless ; the first attack on St. Privat was pre- 
mature, and caused frightful losses; and it was a 
mere accident that, at the last moment, the great 
turning movement was attended with success. As 
the Germans were in overwhelming force, these 
results cannot be deemed remarkable ; and had the 
battle been better directed the French should have 
been utterly routed. The errors, however, of the 
German leaders run up, more or less, to the first 
error that Bazaine's army had been lost sight of ; 
this caused false marches, delay, and precipitate 
haste ; and it is diflBcult to say that Moltke was not 
responsible, in some degree at least, for not having 
kept his enemy in view, a fault more than once to 
be ascribed to him. On the other hand, the French 
army had fought well, although in the first instance 
surprised, as happened repeatedly in the war; and 
the defence of St. Privat by Canrobert and his men 


was an incident glorious to the arms of France. 
The loss of the battle, beyond question, was due 
to the incapacity and indolence of Bazaine. Ron- 
court was the most defenceless point in his line ; 
and he ought to have placed the Imperial Guard 
near it, as has been justly observed ^ by the Prussian 
Staff. He kept, however, this great reserve around 
Metz, thinking only of his hold on the fortress, 
and probably alarmed by the demonstrations made 
by the enemy east of the Moselle; he remained 
inactive near the forts of Metz, and was not even 
on the field of battle ; and he refused to send the 
Guard to the help of Canrobert, until a small re- 
inforcement was sent too late. Had he made a 
proper use of this noble force, and despatched it at 
about 3 p.m. to his endangered right, St. Privat 
and Roncourt would not have been taken, and the 
Germans could not have gained a victory. The 
measure of his misdeeds, however, was not yet full ; 
the cup was to overflow in disgrace and ruin. 

By the 19th of August the army of Bazaine had 
fallen back from the lines they had held, and had 
been assembled under the forts of Metz, exhausted, 
indeed, but not desponding, for the soldiers knew 
they had fought a good fight against an enemy 
greatly superior in force. Nevertheless, that brave, 
but unfortunate army was to leave the fortress only 
as a mass of captives, victims of criminal neglect 
of duty and intrigue ; and the curtain had fallen on 
the second act of the drama of the war of 1870-71. 
* " Prussian Staff History," vol. ii. p, 7. 

168 MOLTKE. 

Moltke had steadily carried out his design, and had 
achieved more success than he had hoped to achieve ; 
he had not exactly driven his enemy northwards, 
but he had compelled him to take refuge under the 
guns of Metz, whence he was not to make his 
escape ; and the Third Army stood on the roads 
to Paris. He had worked out his plan with great 
strength of purpose, and with remarkable and un- 
ceasing energy ; he had occasionally shown con- 
spicuous skill, especially in the flank march to the 
Moselle ; and his movement to intercept Bazaine 
and to cut him off from Verdun and the Meuse 
had been daring and well-conceived. The supe- 
riority, too, of the Grerman armies, not in numbers 
only, but in efficiency in the field, had been 
established by new and convincing proofs, and the 
German generals had admirably worked together, 
if more than once they had been extremely rash. 

The operations of Moltke, nevertheless, were not 
those of the highest genius in war, and were marked 
by errors that might have been made disastrous. 
The French army ought to have been crushed after 
Worth and Spicheren ; it was allowed ample time to 
effect its retreat, and it would have escaped had it 
been tolerably led. The disposition of the German 
corps on the 14th of August gave Bazaine a chance 
which he might well have seized, and Colombey 
Nouilly might have been a victory for France. 
On the 16th a comparatively small German force 
was opposed to an army at first three-fold in 
strength, and it is difficult to assert that, to some 


extent at least, Moltke was not responsible for this 
mistake. The enemy was lost siglit of on the 17th ; 
false movements and delays were the consequence ; 
an ill-conducted battle was fought, and victory was 
hardly won at last, large as was the preponderance 
of the Grerman army ; and here, Moltke, too, was 
probably in part to blame. Nor can it be forgotten 
that Bazaine was afforded a chance to sever the 
communications of his foe ; and if we survey these 
operations as a whole, Moltke did n ot give pr oof 
during these eventful days of the dexterity, the 
resource, the art of seizing opportunities, and 
making the most of them, which are distinctive 
gifts of the greatest captains ; and his success was 
largely due to the gross faults of his enemy. Still 
he rose more than once to a high level in war, and 
he showed some of the best qualities which cha- 
racterize the most able leaders of armies. 

Passing to the opposite side, the French army 
occasionally gave signs of loss of moral power, the 
natural result of ill leading and defeat, although 
the stand made by the 6th corps at St. Privat was 
an heroic exploit. In organization, however, in 
skill in manoeuvre, in exploring, in military value, 
in a word, the French were inferior to their enemy, 
and sometimes they were shamefully surprised. It 
is unnecessary to dwell on their numerical weak- 
ness ; and, in fact, had Napoleon been in the place 
of Moltke, they would have been annihilated, we 
believe, before Metz had been reached, and they 
would have never fought Mars la Tour and Gra- 

170 MOLTKE. 

velotte. The cliief feature, however, of the French 
operations is the fatal vacillation and weakness of 
their chiefs. The Emperor advised the true course 
after the disastrous battles of Worth and Spicheren, 
but he allowed supposed policy to master strategy ; 
his ill-fated array was marched to and fro, and it lost 
the means of effecting its retreat to Chalons, con- 
ceded to it, so to speak, by Moltke. The conduct 
of Bazaine was infinitely worse ; immensely inferior 
as he was in force, he had opportunities which 
might have saved his army, nay, have secured 
important success, had he known how to take 
advantage of them ; but his inactivity, his blunder- 
ing, his want of strength of character, made in- 
dignant Fortune turn aside from him, and he had 
already placed his army on the path to ruin. 

We ought not to blame him for the events of the 
14th, for he had only just assumed a most difficult 
command, but he might easily have won a victory 
at Mars la Tour, and after that indecisive battle he 
possessed the means of issuing out of Metz and 
breaking the communications of Moltke and of 
giving a wholly new turn to the war. His choice 
of standing at Gravelotte was strategically bad, but 
had he placed the Imperial Guard in its true 
position, or sent it in time to the help of Canrobert, 
he could not have lost that hard-fought battle, and 
his indolence and negligence on the field were fatal. 
It is lamentable to observe how he had no insight ; 
how he wavered from one false move to another ; 
how aimless and feeble his operations were ; and if 


he had a fixed idea to cling to Metz, this was not 
to make use of the great fortress, as a real general 
would have made use of it, but as a mere place of 
refuge in a tempest he feared. Worse, far worse, 
was yet to be witnessed ; but already Bazaine had 
sunk below the Soubises and Clermonts of the 
Seven Years' War.^ 

^ The " Prussian Staff History," vol. ii. pp. 165-7, very candidly 
admits the " many errors that were made proceeding from un- 
certainty as to the enemy's intentions," and enumerates them in 
detail. As to the operations of Bazaine, the writer observes, 
" there were phases in the contest, in which, a will on the French 
side, penetrated with an appreciation of the situation, and ener- 
getically applied with singleness of jDurpose, might have secured 
many advantages." These comments are probably from the pen 
of Moltke. 


The results of Gravelotte — Formation of the Army of the Meuse 
and investment of Metz — Inaction of Bazaine — Opportunity- 
still perhaps open to him — Advance of the Third Army — 
Formation of the Army of Chalons under Macmahon — He 
assents to a project to march on Metz for the relief of Bazaine 
— Folly of this plan — The Army of Chalons on the march — 
Fine project of Moltke to intercept this movement — Slow 
progress of the Army of Chalons — Macmahon, though aware 
of the danger, yields to advice from Paris and persists in the 
march — The German armies reach their enemy — Action of 
Nouart — Battle of Beaumont — Macmahon misses an oppor- 
tunity of escape — The Army of Chalons at Sedan — Advance 
and night march of the German armies — Battle of Sedan and 
destruction of the Army of Chalons — Conduct of Moltke at 
the capitulation — Reflections on these operations. 

GrEAVELOTTE, we liavG Said, had accomplished more 
than Moltke had had reason to expect. The French 
had not been driven towards the north, but, in- 
decisive as the battle had been, Bazaine and his 
army had fallen back on Metz, and showed, for the 
present, no signs of life. The second part, too, of 
the plan of the German chief was being realized 
with the fairest promise. The Third Army held 
the approaches to Paris, and nothing stood between 
it and the capital of France, but an assemblage of 
levies being combined with the beaten troops of 
Macmahon and Failly, in the neighbourhood of 

SEDAN. 173 

Chalons and its great camp. A now distribution 
of the German armies was made, with a view, in 
the first instance, to an advance on Paris, and to 
annihilating the army being formed at Chalons ; 
and Moltke's arrangements were carried out with 
the decision and energy characteristic of him. Two 
corps, the Guards and the Saxon 12th, were de- 
tached from the forces that had fought at Gravelotte, 
and, united with the 4th which, we have seen, had 
been in communication with the Third Army, were 
given the name of the Army of the Meuse ; and 
this army, from 80,000 to 100,000 ^ strong, was 
ordered to press forward to the Meuse, and, form- 
ing the right wing of the Third Army, to take part 
in the intended march on Paris. This was a far- 
sighted and very able move, attended ultimately 
with great results ; for the Army of the Meuse, 
directed in this way, not only secured to the Third 
Army an irresistible superiority of force, but inter- 
posed an impassable obstacle to an attempt to 
relieve the fortress of Metz. It constitutes, in 
fact, one of the best titles of Moltke to rank among 
great captains. 

Bazaine, however, was within Metz, at the head 
of an army still formidable, of a large garrison, and 

^ Moltke, in his " Precis of the Franco- German "War," vol. i. 
p. 86, English translation, says that the Army of the Meuse was 
" 138,000 strong." This, however, must be an error of the 
printer ; three corps, two greatly weakened at Gravelotte, could 
not have attained these numbers. The best estimate is from 
80,000 to 100,000 men. 

174 MOLTKE. 

of other forces, and in possession of a great strong- 
hold ; and it was necessary to make things safe, 
with this enemy, before undertaking the march on 
the capital. Prince Frederick Charles was placed 
in command of the First Army, and of the remaining 
part of the Second — the other part had formed the 
Army of the Meuse — and Moltke had made pre- 
parations by the 20th of August for investing Metz, 
and hemming the French within lines to be thrown 
around the fortress. The operation was unex- 
ampled in war ; a force from 150,000 to 180,000 
strong was to surround a force scarcely inferior in 
numbers, reckoning all the troops under Bazaine's 
command, to isolate it, and to prevent its escape, 
though it held Metz, a vast entrenched camp, and 
the passages over a great river.^ Yet the effort was 
made and proved successful; it might well have 
been deemed impossible, and it must have failed 
against a real general. Five corps d'armee, and 
part of a sixth, were placed along the western bank 
of the Moselle, not far from the tract which had 
been the scene of the terrible battle of the 18th, for 
Moltke seems to have been convinced that any 
attempt which Bazaine might make to break out 
would be made from the western side of the fortress, 

1 Moltke, '• Precis of the Franco-German War," vol. p. i. 86, 
English translation, estimates the investing force at Metz at only 
150,000 men; but this is much below every other estimate. 
Counting the garrison and all other forces, besides the regular 
army, Bazaine, even after Gravelotte, must have disposed of nearly 
180,000 men at Metz. 

SEDAN. 175 

that is, on his natural line of retreat. One corps, 
however, strengthened by a division from the re- 
serve, by part of another corps, and by a body of 
horsemen, was alone placed on the eastern bank, 
and that over a wide space of from fifteen to twenty 
miles in extent ; and this comparatively small force 
was the only obstacle, in this direction, in the way 
of Bazaine and his whole army. Meantime inces- 
sant exertions were made to strengthen the lines 
being drawn around Metz. Thousands of men were 
employed in breaking up roads, in constructing 
stockades, in throwing up entrenchments, and in 
placing batteries at available points, in order to 
repel an advancing enemy; and rapid com- 
munication was assured by the telegraph along 
the whole besieging circle. But the circum- 
ference of the lines exceeded thirty miles ; and 
over the greater part of this space they were very 
weakly occupied.^ 

The investment of Metz, under these conditions, 
before the event, would have appeared hopeless. 
Bazaine, we repeat, held a first-rate fortress, and 
both banks of the wide Moselle ; and, in addition to 
this immense advantage, he had a central position 
and interior lines at every point of the sphere of 
manoeuvre. His army, too, apart from his other 

^ The corps investing Metz on the western bank of the Moselle 
were the 8th and part of the 7th of the First Army, and the 2nd, 
10th, 3rd and 9th of the Second. On the eastern bank there 
were part of the 7th, the 1st, and one division of the reserve. 
To these should be added large bodies of cavalry on either bank. 

176 MOLTKE. 

forces, was still more than 100,000 strong ; ^ it had 
not lost heart, and was eager to fight ; and it is 
wholly untrue^ that it was ill-provided with muni- 
tions and other requirements for the field. Bazaine, 
therefore, ought to have been able to hold the enemy 
in check with part of his forces ; to concentrate the 
great mass of his army against the Germans spread 
on a wide circumference ; to break through the 
investing lines, and to escape from Metz ; and the 
experience of ages^ confirms this inference. By 
this time, however, Moltke had had ample proof of 
the indolence and incapacity of his foe, and of his 
persistent resolve to cling to Metz ; and, apart from 
the fact that it was crowned with success, the ex- 

1 This, indeed, is admitted by Bazaine himself, " L'Armee du 
Rhin," p. 76. General Deligny gives this account of the state of 
the army : " Armee de Metz," p. 12 : " Son armee, demeuree in- 
tacte, avait conserve toute sa vitalite ; sa confiance en sa valeur 
s'etait meme accrue de ce que, s'etant mesurce avec des forces ires 
superieures aux siennes, elle etait chaque fois demeuree maitresse 
du champ de bataille." 

3 Riviere, pp. 99-100: Proces Bazaine, p. 711. 

'^ One of the most distinguished generals of the British army, 
who visited Metz after the war, more than once assured me that 
" 200,000 Germans could not have shut up 100,000 Frenchmen 
within Metz, had Bazaine done his duty." A very able Belgian 
military critic. Major Vandevelde, remarks^ " La Guerre de 1870- 
71," " Non-seulement le marechal serait parvenu a se degager, mais 
avec un peu d'intelligence et de savoir faire, il aurait pu prendre 
I'offensive contre I'armee du prince Frederic Charles, et lui faire 
payer cher la difficile et temeraire enterprise de vouloir, avec une 
armee de 200 mille hommes en bloquer une de 180 mills dans un 
camp retranchc." The whole of these comments is too long to 
he quoted, but it deserves attention. 

SEDAN. 177 

periment of liemming in Bazaiiie, hazardous as it 
was, may be fully justified. It was one of the 
occasions when it is legitimate to take liberties with 
a worthless antagonist. 

Nevertheless, the disposition of the German forces 
around the fortress has been severely criticized ; 
and it gave the Marshal a second grand chance, 
even after Gravelotte, to appeal to Fortune. Five 
and a half corps barred an exit from Metz along 
the western bank of the Moselle ; but a force, equal 
to two corps only, and that spread over a wide 
space, closed the avenues along the eastern bank ; 
and the great roads that lead to the ISTied and the 
Sarre remained open for a time, and were never 
strongly held. Had Bazaine, accordingly, at any 
moment, before the investment was complete, 
that is, between the 20th and 27th of August — and 
even afterwards the move was possible — marched 
in this direction with his whole army, he ought 
easily to have overpowered the weak detachments 
that stood in his path, and to have made good his 
way from Metz to the south-east. The consequences 
must have been very great ; in all probability he 
would have saved the bulk of his forces from im- 
pending peril ; he might have fallen on the German 
communications with success, raised the siege of 
Strasbourg, and checked the invasion; he would 
almost certainly have averted frightful disasters, 
and he might have changed the whole position 
of affairs. The opportunity he had on the 
18th of August, in a word, was given him once 


178 MOLTKE. 

more, if the conditions, doubtless, were less 

A bold movement, however, of this kind did not 
cross the mind of Bazaiue. He was bound, we shall 
see, by the strongest pledges that could bind a 
soldier, to endeavour to make a determined attempt 
to break out from Metz, in order to join a too gene- 
rous colleague ; but he maintained his attitude of 
passive defence, and devoted the week that followed 
Gravelotte to reorganizing his army, replenishing 
his magazines, and strengthening the fortifications 
of the place, which he never really intended to 
leave. ^Ve turn to the operations of the German 
armies engaged in carrying out the projected inva- 
sion. The Third Army, we have said, had filled the 
re2;ion around Luneville and ^ancv bv the middle 
of August ; it had soon broken up fi'om the Upper 

^ Curiously enough, the Prussian Staff, "svhich passes over •with- 
out notice what Bazaine might have accomplished on the 18th of 
August, had he broken out from Metz, to the eastward, acknow- 
ledges that he might have been successful, had he adopted this 
course, even as late as the 31st, or the 1st of September. " Staff 
History," vol, ii. p. 533. The passage should be carefully studied. 
General Hamley, " Operations of War," p. 332, ed. 1889, signih- 
cantly observes: "This opinion refers to a time (31st August) 
when the Germans had been for twelve days investing Metz. If 
the chances in favour of Bazaine's supposed attempt were, at that 
time, so great, how much greater would they have been on the 
17th, when the Germans were scattered, and unprepared for 
resistance on that side." The simple truth is that the Prussian 
Staff is not always candid, and will not admit the many oppor- 
tunities Moltke gave Bazaine^opportunities which, in our judg- 
ment, Napoleon might have made disastrous to the invaders. See 
also "Metz et negociatious," pp. Ill, 11;^. 

SEDAN. 179 

Moselle, and by the lOtli its foremost divisions had 
passed the line of the Upper Meuse. This great 
array composed of five corps and a half, and num- 
bering probably 160,000 ^ men, had soon rolled 
into the plains of Champagne, approaching the 
valley of the Upper Marne ; and it halted, for a 
moment, to effect its junction with the Army of the 
Meuse, which, we have seen, had been formed by 
Moltke and made its right wing. The two masses, 
perhaps 240,000 strong, had come into line by the 
23rd ; and spreading over the wide tract between 
Verdun on the Meuse, and St. Dizier on the Marne, 
moved slowly towards the great camp of Chalons, 
preceded by tens of thousands of horsemen. To 
overwhelm every hostile force on their path and 
then to march in triumph on Paris, was almost the 
only thought of their chiefs ; and Paris, these be- 
lieved, would, like Jericho, fall at the first blast of 
an enemy's trumpet. Attempts made to capture 
Verdun and Toul on the way, had, nevertheless, 
failed: but the huge waves of invasion rolled far 
beyond these petty obstacles without let or 

Meanwhile the remains of the army routed at 
Worth, the greater part of the corps of Failly, and 

1 The Third Army -was now composed of the 5th, lith, and 6i!l 
Prussian, of the 1st and 2nd Bavarian corps, and of the Wurtem- 
berg division. Moltke, " Precis of the Franco-G-erraan War," 
vol. i. p. S6, estimati'S the Third Army and the Army of the Meuse 
at 223,000 men ; but this is considerably a less number than most 
other estimates. 

N 2 

180 MOLTKE. 

the 7tli corps of Doiiay, drawn in from Belfort, had, 
after a series of forced marches, assembled in the 
well-known camp of Chalons. The Government 
in Paris, of which the Empress was, for the present, 
the nominal head — she had been named Regent 
in her husband's absence — liad, during these days, 
made earnest efforts to increase and strengthen this 
shattered force. A new corps, the 12th, composed 
in some measure of marines, hastily summoned from 
the fleet, had been formed and despatched from the 
capital; and several regiments, largely made up of 
untrained recruits and raw Gardes Mobiles, had 
been added. By the 2nd of August the collective 
array numbered from 180,000 to 140,000 men, with 
about 380 or 400 guns ; and it was the only army 
of reserve which, for the time, France could fit out 
and send into the field, so defective was her organi- 
zation for war. Macmahon was placed at the head 
of this force, for he had still power over the hearts 
of his men ; and the unfortunate Emperor, just 
arrived from Metz, had become a companion-in-arms 
of the Marshal, though he made no attempt to direct 
his counsels. With the enthusiasm characteristic 
of the race, the troops gathered together in this 
way demanded to be led against the enemy ; but 
any skilful observer could have easily seen that 
they were not equal to bold and decisive movements. 
The Army of Chalons, as it was called, was a bad 
army in every sense of the word ; it was a medley 
of beaten soldiers and of rude levies ; the marines, 
though good troops, were not accustomed to march- 

SEDAN. 181 

mg, and the cavalry, except tv\'-o or three regiments, 
were of little value, and had inferior horses. The 
organization and administration of the army, be- 
sides, was ill-arranged, and did not fulfil its functions; 
a deficiency of supplies was, from the first, apparent; 
and the discipline and temper of the soldiers was 
such as would not endure the stress of ill-fortune. 
The army, in a word, as an instrument of war, was 
feeble and, in every respect, imperfect.^ 

These considerations did not escape the experi- 
enced eye of the Duke of Magenta, and his first 
operations were in accordance with the military 
situation, and with true strategy. By the 20th of 
August he had become aware that Bazaine had not 
succeeded in his march on Verdun, and that his 
retreat was probably cut off; and he had positive 
information that two great hostile armies were on 
their way from the Meuse to the Marne. He had 
almost resolved to fall back on Paris, but as Bazaine 
might perhaps have got out of Metz, and might be 
on the march northwards, and as, in any case, it was 

' Tlie events that led to the catastrophe of Sedan begin from 
tliis point. The narrative of the Prussian Staff is by far the 
best ; encumbered as it is witli details, it is clear and masterly, 
and it bears pLun traces of the hand of Moltke. The evidence 
given by Marshal Macraahon at the Enquete Parlementaire, 
should be carefully studied; it reveals in full completeness the 
character of the man, and his conduct as a general-in-chief. 
Valuable information will be found in the ''Sedan" of General 
Ducrot, and the " Sedan " of General WimpflTen ; in the work 
of Prince Bibesco, which especially describes the operations of the 
7th corps of Douay, in the Apology of Failly, and in Vandeveldf.'s 
"Guerre de 1870." 

182 MOTiTKE. 

not advisable to fig^ht a great battle in the plains of 
Chrdons against an enemy immensely superior in 
strength, the Marshal determined to move on 
Rheims, where he would at once possess the means 
of retiring on Paris, would approach Bazaine, should 
he be on the way from Metz, would avoid a prob- 
ably fatal conflict, and would hold a favourable and 
strong position, hanging on the flank of the German 
invasion. This was judicious and well conceived 
strategy ; and had Macmahon held to his purpose, 
France would not have mourned a frightful disaster. 
On the 21st the Marshal had attained Rheims ; ^ 
the march of his army from Chalons had been slow 
and difficult, and this had given him proof of its 
inferior quality. His intention was declared on the 
following morning ; he had obtained no intelligence 
from Bazaine, he was convinced that Metz was 
being besieged ; the Army of the Mouse and the 
Third Army were drawing near in irresistible force ; 
and he " vehemently insisted " that " the only thing 
t30 be done " was to retreat on the capital as soon as 
possible. Heliad prepared his orders for the move- 
ment on the 23rd, a movement which, as Moltke 
has remarked, was the only judicious step^ as affairs 
stood, a movement we will add, which, if carried 
out, would have completely changed the course of 

' Enqiiete Parlementaire. 

' " Precis of Franco-German War," vol. i. p. 90 ; " Prussian Staff 
History," vol. ii. p. 185. It has been argued that Macmahon ought 
to have marched southwards, and relieved Bazaine in that direc- 
tion. But the Army of Chalons was unequal to any such movement. 

SEDAN. 183 

the war, and would probably have saved Alsace and 
Lorraine. But at this momentous jmicture the fatal 
influence, which had already had such disastrous 
effects, began to interfere with common-sense and 
prudence ; and an accident completed the resulting 
mischief. E-ouher, a servant of the Empire, had 
come to Rheims ; he entreated Macmahon to advance 
on Metz to relieve Bazaiue, and not to approach 
Paris ; and this evil counsel was probably largely 
due to fear of the Parisian populace, and to a regard 
for a government already in peril. Macmahon 
"resisted stiffly" at first; he gave unanswerable 
reasons against the proposed movement, and even a 
message from the men in power at the Tuileries did 
not affect, for some hours, his purpose, that military 
rules should not yield to reasons of State. At last, 
however, a calamitous chance changed a resolve, 
perhaps even now faltering, that ought to have been 
inflexibly fixed. Bazaine, we have seen, had not 
been on the field of battle of the ISth August ; he 
appears not to have fully ascertained the results 
even by the next day, and he sent on the lOtli a 
despatch to Macmahon, announcing, though in 
ambiguous terms, " that he hoped " to retreat 
northwards to reach Montmedy, and "thence to 
descend from Mezieres on Chtxlons." This message 
was received by Macmahon late on the 22nd ; the 
Marshal saw in it a clear announcement that his 
colleague was on his way to join him ; he was 
already divided in mind and wavering, and, in an 
evil hour for France and himself, he countermanded 

184 MOLTKE. 

his previous orders, and directed his army to move 
eastwards, in the hope of meeting Bazaine on the 
Meuse. Napoleon III., it is only just to add, in no 
way interfered with the misguided chief/ 

This project of Macmahon may be described as 
one of the most fatal ever made in war. At this 
moment the Army of the Meuse and the Third 
Army were spread along a front of nearly fifty miles 
in width, on the edge of Champagne : they were in 
numbers almost two-fold the Army of Chalons ; 
they were infinitely superior in military worth ; 
and the Army of the Meuse was much nearer the 
river than the French, while the Third Army was 
only three marches distant. Macmahon, therefore, 
in advancinof to the succour of Bazaine — and he 
was well informed of his enemy's strength and posi- 
tions — proposed to execute a march along an arc of 
from eighty to a hundred miles in extent, of which 
his adversary held at most points the chord, and 
was, even now, almost within striking distance ; and 
he proposed to do this with a bad army, completely 
unable to cope with its foe, and in a situation in which 
a defeat would probably force it over the Belgian 
frontier. Speaking technically, this was a flank 
march of the most perilous and reckless kind to be 
attempted with all the chances against it, and to be 
attempted, too, when even a check would almost 

^ The conduct of Macmahon, at this memorable crisis, appears 
fully from liis own evidence in the Encj^ucte Parlementaire. It 
is a striking illustration of the old coniession, " Video meliora 
proboque, deteriora sequor." 

SEDAN. 185 

certainly involve ruin. Except on the absurd 
assumption that the German commanders were 
shallow fools, who could not deal with an insensate 
movement, the prospect of success was almost hope- 
less, and the prospect of disaster was self-evident 
to any one versed in the operations of war.^ 

Yet even these were not the chief reasons why this 
calamitous movement ought not to have been made. 
The Army of Chcllons was the last hope of France ; 
ill-organized as it was, it might become the nucleus, 
if husbanded, of very large forces, should France be 
":iven time to collect her streno-th : and it could be 
really formidable in a good defensive position. 
Every consideration, therefore, shoidd have com- 
pelled the Duke of Magenta to retreat on Paris, as 
he had first intended; the capital was already a 
powerful fortress, and could easily be made a great 
entrenched camp ; it was the centre on which the 
national levies could be most readily and quickly 
assembled ; and the Army of Chalons could hope 
to resist the Germans behind its forts and its 
ramparts. Had the Marshal taken this, the only 
rational course — Moltke has pointed this out with 
repeated emphasis — we shall not assert that he 

1 One or two soldiers, carried away by Crimean synipatliios, 
have attempted to justify Macmahon's march ; but tlieir argu- 
ments cannot bear examination. Tiie weight of well-inforniod 
opinion against this fatal movement is overwhelming ; and I can 
say, for myself, that the moment I was apprised of it^ a week 
before Sedan, I telegraphed to one of the best judges, of men 
and things, in Europe, "That army is lost." Prince Bibesco 
condemns the march as "insane," pp. 80, SI. 

186 MOLTKE. 

would have moved with the success of the youthful 
Bonaparte around Mantua, or have made Paris a 
Torres Vedras ; but the events of the war entitle 
us to say that the capital of France would not have 
fallen, and the treaty of Frankfort would have 
never been signed.^ 

Macmahon, however, a hero in the field, was 
essentially a weak man of Quixotic nature; and 
partly from a generous wish to assist a comrade, 
and partly from a desire to support the Govern- 
ment, he " consented, saying he would not consent," 
and began the calamitous advance to the Mouse. 
Celerity, he knew, was his only chance ; and the four 
corps of the Army of Chalons, the 1st under Ducrot, 
the 5th of Failly, the 7th of Douay, and the im- 
provised 12th of Lebrun, were directed on the 23rd 
by a forced march to the line of the Suippe, a 
tributary of the Aisne. The movement, through a 
comparatively open country, was ^ rapid in the ex- 
treme and full of promise, and officers and soldiers 
looked joyfully forward to a speedy junction with 
the Army of Bazaine. At this point, however, the 
bad organization of the Army of Chalons became 

^ Some of tlic authorities against Macmahon's march will be 
found in General Picrron's work, " Stratcgie et grande Tactique," 
vol. i. pp. 79, 80. The opinion, however, ascribed to " un officier 
general anglais," is almost a verbatim copy of an extract from 
"The Campaign of 1870-1," republished from The Times, by 
Bentley ; and this work was written by a civilian. 

^ Bibesco, p. 84 : ^' Nous avions en deux jours franchi une 
detour d'au moins 60 kilometres, ce qui est enorme pour une 
agglomeration aussi nombreuse." 

SEDAN. 187 

apparent, and the absence of preparation for a great 
movement eastwards liad a disastrous effect on 
the operations in hand.' The forced march had 
fatigued and harassed the troops, the plains were 
.crowded with stragglers and impedimenta in the 
rear, and there was a deficiency of supplies of almost 
every kind. Macmahon was compelled to turn 
northwards, to halt at Rethel in order to rally his 
men and to find the means to give them support, 
and two days were almost wholly lost. By the 
25th of August the Array of Chalons was but a 
short distance from the Aisne, filling the country 
between Rethel and Vouziers, and still nearly fifty 
miles from the Meuse. The bearing of the soldiery 
was of evil omen ; short-lived excitement had died 
away, disorder and confusion were seen everywhere, 
and sigDs of insubordination and even of mutiny 
were visible among the young levies. The region 
to be passed through was, besides, difficult ; it was 
intersected by good main roads, but it was dense 
with masses of forest and woodland, and made 
intricate in places by long defiles. 

While the Army of Chalons was being thus 
delayed the two German armies had continued their 
march. The cavalry exploring the great plains in 
their front had ascertained, by the 24th of August, 
that the French had left Chalons and had moved 
on Rheims ; a letter had been intercepted disclosing 
the news that Macmahon was on his way to Metz, 
and a general officer of rank had expressed his 
' Enquete Parlementaire. 


opinion at a Council of War, that the Army of 
Chalons was on its way to relieve Bazaine. This 
intelligence was confirmed by various reports and 
by the telegraph on the following day ; and Moltke, 
though still doubting whether the enemy would 
venture on an operation of reckless folly, gradually 
made up his mind ^ "that political requirements 
might have outweighed all military considerations," 
and that the French were on their way to the Meuse. 
It had thus become necessary to guard against 
the supposed junction of Macraahon and Bazaine, 
and Moltke's plan was formed with that decision 
and insight of which he repeatedly gave ample proof. 
Assuming that the French had marched from 
Rheims on the 24th, and had advanced rapidly, 
they might have crossed the Meuse before they 
could be reached ; but the Germans held the shorter 
lines on the theatre, and the enemy could not 
descend on Metz, nay, might be placed in extreme 
danger if precautions were taken to arrest his pro- 
gress. To attain the object he had in view Moltke 
proposed that the Army of the Meuse, already gathered 
around the river, should cross it and move to the 
eastern bank ; in the meantime, two corps were to 
be detached from Metz," and to join hands with the 
Army of tlie Meuse; and the united forces were to 
take a position on the table-lands between the Meuse 
and the Moselle, between Damvillers and Longuyon 

' "Prussian Staff History," vol, ii. p. 205. 

■ 111 theory this move woukl have been extremely hazardousj 
but Moltke had taken the measure of Bazaine. 

SEDAN. 189 

and to fall on the approaching Army of Chalons. 
Meanwhile the Third Army was to advance north- 
wards to occupy the roads between Rethel and 
the Meuse, and to attain the flank and rear of 
Macmabon ; and thus while the Marshal would be 
assailed in front by an army at least equal to his 
own in numbers, and very superior in real strength, 
his retreat might be completely cut off by an enemy 
in irresistible force. As, however, the facts were 
not yet quite known, orders were not issued for 
carrying out this plan, until the situation had been 
fully ascertained, as it, doubtless, would be on the 
26th of August. 

This design was masterly and admirably con- 
ceived, if extravagant praise has been lavished on 
it. It was rendered possible, it should be observed, 
by the direction given to the Army of the Meuse, 
after Gravelotte, in the first instance, and it is here 
that we perceive the foresight of Moltke. The 
German leader had not long to wait for the intel- 
ligence required to confirm his purpose. By the 
25th of August the Army of Chalons had advanced 
some way into the intricate region that lies between 
the Aisne and the Meuse, and spread from Tourteron 
to Le Chene and Vouziers ; but the cavalry had not 
explored the country, and Douay's corps, the 7th, 
was around Vouziers, its flank covered on the ric-ht 
by a few horsemen only. The German squadrons, 
scouring the surrounding tracts, reached a hostile 
outpost not far from Grand Pre, and they had ere 
long ascertained that a large hostile army was in 

190 MOLTKE. 

the neighbourhood on the march eastward. The 
position of affairs had now been made clear ; carrying 
out his project, Moltke directed two corps from 
Metz on Etain and Briey, and the 12th corps of 
the Army of the Meuse was pushed forward to seize 
the passages of the river at Stenay and Dun. At 
the same time the masses of the Third Army were 
moved northwards on a wide front by St. Mene- 
hould and Clermont en Argonne, to strike the line 
of Macmahon's march and fall on his exposed flank, 
the object of these movements being to intercept 
the Marshal upon his way to Metz, to defeat and, 
if possible, to destroy his army. Ou the 27th the 
German armies were in full motion, the telegraph 
connecting their operations as a whole, and their 
advance, if not rapid, was admirably arranged. In- 
deed, that they were able to execute an immense 
change of front in a few hours, and at a moment's 
notice, and that their huge columns, with their im- 
pedimenta in their train, succeeded in threading 
their difficult way through the wooded hills, the 
ravines, and the defiles of the Argonne — the theatre 
of the campaign of Valmy — is a most striking 
instance of the wonderful excellence their organiza- 
tion for war had attained, of the energy of the 
chiefs, and of the power of the soldiery. 

While the Germans were approaching their foes, 
the Army of Chalons had made scarcely any pro- 
gress. The ajaparition of hostile cavalry on his 
flank, followed by two or three sharp skirmishes, 
had alarmed Douay aud brought him to a stand ; 

SEDAN. 191 

and Macmahon had ordered part of his army to 
descend on Vouziers, and support the 7th corps. 
As the enemy, however, made no attack in force, 
the Marshal countermanded the movement, and by 
the evening of the 27th his four corps, divided into 
two main columns, and at wide distances, were again 
on their way. They had not made, it should be 
observed, more than twenty miles from Rethel in 
nearly four days ; " erratic marches," as Moltke 
grimly remarked, " had been the result of counter- 
orders," and they were still nearly thirty miles from 
the Mouse, and eighty or ninety by the present 
route from Metz. On the night of the 27th Mac- 
mahon was convinced that the enterprise could only 
lead to disaster, and ^ he has acknowledged that the 
situation was plainly before him. He knew by this 
time that Bazaine was still within Metz ; the last 
despatches, indeed,^ received from the Marshal 
rather discountenanced the idea that he could join 
his colleague ; he knew that the Army of the Mouse 
had crossed the river and was already barring his 
way to the fortress, and he knew that the Third 
Army was gathering on his track not less than 
" 150,000 strong." In these circumstances the 
Marshal came to the only rational conclusion that 

^ Enquete Parlementaire. Bazaine, " Guerre de 1870," p. 135. 
Macnuilion, with all liis faults, is an honourable gentleman; and 
his evidence is transparently candid. 

- This appears from Riviere, " Report," pp. 57, 59. Bazaine was 
deeply guilty, as we shall see, but many of the charges heaped 
upon him are far-fetched and absurd. He never meant, as lias 
been insinuated, to attract Macmahon to Metz by false reports. 

192 MOLTKE. 

could be formed; he could not expect to reach 
Bazaine, and he was even now in imminent danger, 
and he o-ave orders for a retreat on Mezieres next 
day, for he might hope to descend from that place 
by the valley of the Oise, with his army on Paris, 
Once more, however, the ill-fated chief succumbed 
to the influence which bad proved so fatal to France 
in this disastrous war, and which he ought to have 
boldly spurned. A telegraphic message from Paris 
reached him at midnight ; the Government adjured 
him to proceed to the Mouse, " for the desertion of 
Bazaine would cause a revolution;" he counter- 
manded the movement on Mezieres, and, perfectly 
aware that it was a fatal step, he undertook to 
attempt to continue the march on Metz. History 
can scarcely show another such instance of ^ 
criminal weakness on the part of a chief and of the 
disregard of military prudence to gain a political 

Bellona, who brooks no rival, had been madly 
provoked, and a frightful catastrophe was to mark 
her vengeance. Macmahon, conscious that haste 

^ This may appear harsh language; but let us hear Napoleon on 
the subject, '^Comment.," vol. i. p. 420, ed. 1867: "Un general- 
en-chef n'est pas a couvert par un ordre d'un ministre, ou d'un 
prince eloigne du champ d'operations, et connaissant mal, ou ne 
connaissant pas du tout, le dernier etat des choses. Tout gcneral- 
en-chef qui se charge d'executer un plan qu'il trouve mauvais et 
dcsastrcux, est crimineL" Macmahon required no inspiration 
but that of common sense ; but he must have known how- 
Napoleon had refused to obey tlie orders of the Directory to 
divide his army in Italy, and he may have read of Turenne's 
conduct in 1646. 

SEDAN. 193 

was more than ever needful, gave orders for a 
forced march on the 28th, and, leaving his army in 
their present formations, directed his four corps to 
speed to the Meuse. But the weather had become ^ 
rainy and severe ; conflicting orders liad led to 
endless confusion ; the French troops were in a 
dangerous mood, and the roads, strewn with im- 
pedimenta and disbanded men, gave presage already 
of coming disaster. The army divided into two 
great masses, made in the first instance for Mouzon 
and Stenay, by the main and other roads which 
traverse the district ; the left wing, the 1st and 12th 
corps, moving by Le Chcne, Stonne, and La Besace, 
the right wing, the 7th and 5th corps, advancing 
by Boult anx Bois and Belval ; and Macmahon, it 
is said, became hopeful after he had made his throw 
of a desperate gambler. Spite of every effort, 
however, the march was not rapid ; the enemy had 
not appeared in strength, but he was known to be 
closing in on all sides, and the two French columns, 
already widely apart, began to separate at an in- 
creasing distance, for the 5th corps was harassed 
by hostile cavalry, and the 7th was burdened by an 
immense train of impedimenta extending ^ for miles. 
This interval was enlarged because Macmahon, 
having learned that the Germans held Stenay, had 
ordered the whole army to turn northwards towards 

' "Prussian Staff History," vol. ii. p. 220. The tone of sconi iu 
the passage is evident. 

" Ibid. vol. ii, p. 243. The train is said to have been nine 
miles long. 


194 MOLTKE. 

Eemilly, Raucourt, and Mouzon ; and^ Failly, still 
on his way to Stenay, had not been apprised of 
this change of purpose. The 12th corps crossed 
the Meuse on the evening of the 29th, the 1st 
being not far in the rear ; and thus the left wing 
of the Army of Chalons was for the time compara- 
tively safe. But the right wing, that which was 
next the enemy, was isolated, unsupported, and 
exposed on its flank, and the 5th corps was running 
into its adversary's mouth. 

The slow and tortuous march of the Army of 
Chalons had, in a certain measure, perplexed 
Moltke,^ who had expected to strike it east of the 
Meuse. By the 29th of August, however, it had 
become evident that the enemy was still to the west 
of the stream, and new orders were issued to the 
German armies. The 12th corps of the Army of 
the Meuse was directed to return across the river, 
and to join the two corps which had not crossed it ; 
the two corps detached from Metz were sent back ; 
and the march of the Third Army was continued 
northward. A great battle was, perhaps, expected 
on the 30th or 31st, as the Germans were drawing in 
on their foes ; but the movement of the 5th and of 
the 7th French corps, inclining towards the enemy, 
and away from their supports, precipitated the con- 
test, and gave a new turn to affairs. On the 29th 
Failly had been sharply attacked by a hostile 

^ "Prussian Staff History," vol. ii. p. 230. The officer beariug 
Macmahon's order to Failly was taken prisoner. 
2 Ibid. vol. ii. p. 222. 

SEDAN. 195 

division near Nouart. This warned him not to 
advance on Stenay, and he fell back on Beaumont, 
a small town near the banks of the Meuse, and not 
far from Moiizon. The place is an oasis amidst 
dense woodland; and on the morning of the 30th 
the French were surprised and assailed by the 4th 
corps of the Army of the Meuse, which had pressed 
forward. Failly,^ not more to blame than other 
French chiefs repeatedly surprised in the same way, 
called his troops to arms, and made a stout defence ; 
but Beaumont was before long captured, and the 
5th corps was driven at last towards Mouzon, 
having narrowly escaped being forced into the 
Meuse. Its situation, indeed, had become so 
critical that part of the 12th French corps, which, 
we have seen, had got over the Meuse and lay 
around Mouzon, recrossed it, and tried to give aid 
to its comrades. A fierce struggle took place for a 
time, but the French at last were completely routed, 
and with difficulty fought their way across to 
Mouzon. Meanwhile, the 7th corps of Douay had 
been running the gauntlet of enemies gathering on 
its flank and rear. The troops, kept back by their 
great convoy, and losing men in hundreds, advanced 
slowly, and by nightfall on the 30th August they 
had only just reached the Meuse, seething with 
discontent, exhausted, and famished. 

Macmahon, by this time, was east of the Meuse, 

1 Failly was unjustly made a scape-goat. His retreat fiuiu 
Bitche showed presence of mind and skill, and he fcnight well at 


196 MOLTKE. 

and had been contemplating a descent on Mont- 
medy, and a march from that place to relieve 
Bazaine. His 1st corps had got safely over the 
Meuse, a few hours only, after the 12th, and he had 
pushed forward part of this corps to Carignan, in 
the valley of the Chiers, a long march from Mont- 
medy. Extraordinary as it may appear, the French 
commander^ believed that important success was 
at hand ; and the unfortunate Emperor, who had 
followed in his train, sick, broken down, and letting 
things drift,* but taking no part in military affairs, 
had sent a message to his wife " that we are on the 
eve of victory." It is a proof how weakness can 
deceive itself that such a notion could have been 
entertained. The Army of Chalons was fifty miles 
from Metz, its retreat imperilled by the Third 
Army ; the Army of the Meuse was hanging on its 
flank, and part actually on the way to bar its 
progress ; the' Army of Prince Frederick Charles 
stood in its way at Metz ; and all this was perfectly 
well known by Macmahon. The terrible news of 
the rout of Failly and of part of the 12th and 7th 
French corps, soon known, dispelled the Marshal's 
delusion, and he gave immediate orders for a general 
retreat. Sedan, a fortress of the fourth order, on 
the Meuse, lay a few miles to the rear, and Mac- 

1 The emotional and somewhat shallow nature of Macmahon 
was exactly that which Napoleon has declared unfits a general for 
a great command, and was strikingly exemplified on this occasion. 

2 Napoleon III., however, had expressed his disapproval of the 
reckless march on the 28th. 


To face page 19", 

SEDAN. 197 

mahon directed the Army of Chalons to assemble 
round the place as a harbour of refuge. Through- 
out the night of the 30th, and the early morning of 
the 31st, the French columns were toiling painfully 
on their way, and they were draw^n together near 
Sedan long before noon. The aspect of the army, 
however, was pitiable in the extreme ; the 1st corps, 
still intact, had a martial bearing, but the appearance 
of the other three corps was alarming. There was 
a deficiency of supplies, and many men were 
starving; whole regiments were broken up and 
confused, stragglers spread over miles around in 
thousands, and sounds of mutiny and fear were 
heard in more than one camp.* Nevertheless, that 
army, as a whole, could fight, and could certainly 
march, if well directed. 

It is at crises like these that a great chief, espe- 
cially if he commands a French army, can do much 
to avert impending disaster. Not later than the 
early afternoon of the 31st Macmahon had his 
whole army in hand ; and a French corps, the 13tli, 
under General Vinoy, sent forward from Paris to 

1 An eye-witness gives this description of part of the army, the 
part, no doubt, that had suffered most. Wimpffen, "Sedan,'' 
p. 137 : " Un nombre considerable de fantassins marchaient sans 
ordre, et comnie des tirailleurs, en grandes bandes, occupant une 
vaste surface. Je me hatai de descendre dans la plaine pour ar- 
reter ce desordre et interpcller ces fuyards. J'eu de la peine a 
m'en faire comprendre. En vain je leur criais : ' Mais, malheureux, 
regardez done derriere vous, le canon de I'ennenii est encon; loin. 
Vous n'avez rien a redouter.' lis ne m'ccoutaient pas dans leur 
course haletante. 

198 MOLTKE. 

support the Marshal, was near Mezieres, only a 
march distant. At this time the Army of the 
Meiise was, in part, on the eastern bank of the 
river, in order to prevent a descent on Montmedy ; 
the other parts were far off, on the western bank, 
and the Third Army was still a long way from 
Sedan, divided, too, from the place by the Meuse, 
the heads only of a Bavarian corps being near the 
fortress. The Germans, therefore, had not their 
enemy in their grasp; a retreat to the westward 
was still partly open, and had Macmahon formed at 
once a bold resolve, abandoned his bad and most 
enfeebled troops, left his heaviest impedimenta in 
Sedan, and broken down the bridges on the Meuse, 
he would probably have made good his way to 
Mezieres, at the sacrifice of 20,000 or 30,000 men, 
but having saved three-fourths of his army. Napo- 
leon, at the Beresina, was in a far worse plight ; 
and yet history has recorded how that mighty 
warrior rescued his stricken troops from the ex- 
treme of peril, and baffled, by his marvellous resource, 
his astounded foes. Nor did the movement to 
Mezieres escape the notice of judicious observers 
in the camp of the French ; it was suggested, 
at least, by Napoleon III., and Ducrot, the leader 
of the 1st corps, a very able and experienced 
soldier,^ had prepared for it even on the night of 
the 30th. 

Genius and insight, however, were wanting to 
France in that calamitous hour of her destiny. 

1 Ducrot, " Scdau," pp. 10, 11. His remarks should be studied. 



Macmahon ^ knew that he could not stay long at 
Sedan, but he did not wish to fall back on 
Mezieres ; he believed that he had time to give a 
day's rest to his troops. He thought the Germans 
more distant than they were, and his real intention 
was to resume, if possible, the march on Montmedy. 
He threw, therefore, away his one chance of safety ; 
he lost the precious hours of the 31st; the roads to 
Mezieres, and even to Sedan, were left open to the 
approaching enemy, for the chief bridges on the 
Meuse were not destroyed. A council of war — that 
clear token of weakness in command — came to no 
decision, and it was finally resolved to wait on 
events round Sedan. Vacillation and disregard of 
every principle of war were the characteristics of 
this fatal conduct, to be soon visited by a tremendous 
penalty. The only decided step taken by Macmahon 
was to replace Failly in his command by Wimpffen, 
an officer who had been despatched from Paris to 
succeed the Marshal in the event of his fall; and the 
choice was to prove, in many respects, unfortunate. 
During all this time the two German armies had 
been gradually approaching Sedan. The great 
masses, however, had moved somewhat slowly, and 
until late on the 31st Moltke, who had not brought 

^ These conclusions follow from an impartial review of Mac- 
mahon's evidence at the Enquete Parlementaire. See also 
"Bibesco," p. 105; Wimpffen, "Sedan." The "Prussian Staff 
History" is in error in intimating, vol. ii. p. 292, that Macmahon 
wished to retreat on Mezieres. The Marshal said exactly the 

200 MOLTKE. 

liis enemy to bay, as lie Lad, perhaps, hoped to do 
before, hardly expected that he could accomplish 
more than to drive Macmahon ^ over the Belgian 
frontier — that is, to disarm the Army of Chalons in 
a neutral's country. By the evening of the 31st the 
Army of the Mouse had completely closed the roads 
to Montmedy, and, having crossed the Meuse with 
all its divisions, held the tract between the river and 
the Chiers ; but the Third Army was half a march 
from Sedan, though it had gradually drawn near 
the course of the Meuse, standing from the right to 
the left on a broad space,^ and threatening Mac- 
mahon' s retreat to Mezieres. Moltke certainly 
expected that the French commander would attempt 
to effect his escape that way, and he had made 
preparations to cross the Meuse and to endeavour 
to force him, we have said, into Belgium, an 
event, however, by no means probable had Mac- 
mahon been a capable chief. But hours passed and 
the French made no sign ; the advanced corps of 
the Third Army seized the principal bridges on the 
Meuse, left intact, we have seen, by neglect, and 

1 " Prussian Staff History," vol. ii. p. 290. The movements of 
Macmahon had puzzled the German commanders ; they were so 
contrary to common sense. " I cannot understand," General 
Bliimenthal, Chief of the Staff of the Third Army, said to a by- 
stander, " what the Marshal is at." A very able military critic, 
equally perplexed, hazarded the surmise that Macmahon would 
march into Belgium, violate neutral territory, and re-enter France 
near Givet, making his escape in this way. 

2 The 6th corps of the Third Army was leagues in the rear, and 
west of Mezieres. 

SEDAN. 201 

as the Army of Chalons did not move from Sedan, 
Moltke saw that his enemy was within the toils, and 
that he could be hemmed in on Sedan and destroyed. 
Orders were issued for a great night march. The 
Army of the Mense was to advance on tlio fortress, 
and to attack the French on its eastern front ; the 
Third Army was to cross the Meuse, and, leaving a 
large force on the southern front, was to close on 
the enemy from the west ; and the uniting masses 
were, like a huge serpent, to envelop and crush 
their doomed prey. By the early dawn the great 
columns were in motion, well led, well directed, and 
advancing steadily ; and this movement, one of tlie 
most decisive ever made in war, was indisputably 
that of a great captain. 

Macmahon, meanwhile, had arranged his army in 
a defensive position around Sedan, ready, if neces- 
sary, to meet the attack of his enemy. Strategically, 
the situation could hardly be worse ; the French 
were close to the Belgian frontier, and a lost battle 
would entail ruin. But tactically the position was 
extremely strong, unless, as at Gravelotte, the 
Germans were in overwhelming force ; and there is 
reason to think that the Marshal believed a large 
part of the Third Army distant. The fortress itself 
gave little protection ; but north of it a tract 
extends, covered on every side by diflficult obstacles, 
and the Army of Chalons held this ground of vantage, 
drawn up in a great semi-circle to resist an attack. 
The brook of the Givonne, with the adjoining villages 
of Bazeilles, La Moncelle, Daigny, and Givonne, 

202 MOLTKE. 

opposed a barrier on the east to the G-ermans, and 
Macmahon held this front with his 1st and 12th 
corps, the best parts of his enfeebled army. Few- 
troops were needed on the southern and south- 
western fronts, for, not to speak of the artillery of 
Sedan, the Mouse ran along this whole space, form- 
ing a huge bend like a great double fosse, and 
the approaches on this side were made very intricate 
for miles by masses of dense woodland. On the 
northern and north-western fronts the ground was 
more open ; but the hamlets of Floing, St. Menges, 
and Fleigneux afforded valuable points of defence ; 
and the 7th corps was placed oa this part of the 
field, assembled in a comparatively narrow space. 
The centre of the circumference thus closed or 
occupied was filled by the shattered 5th corps, the 
reserve of the three corps outside, and the position, 
we repeat, was, as a whole, formidable against an 
enemy not in immense numbers. But it afforded no 
facilities for counter attack, and hardly any means 
of retreat; it was '* cramped," confined, and for 
this reason dangerous ; it was commanded on the 
north by the heights of Illy, and should the Germans 
once gain this point of vantage, and especially should 
they unite upon it, a frightful disaster would cer- 
tainly follow; the French army would have no 
power to escape, and would be precipitated into the 
lowlands around Sedan. 

The memorable 1st of September had come ; a 
day of woe and despair for France. It was still 
dark when the 1st Bavarian corps attacked Bazeilles, 


SEDAN. 203 

a suburb of Sedan, near where the Givonne falls into 
the Meuse. The 12th Saxon corps had soon come 
into line, and assailed the hamlets of La Moncelle 
and Daigny, and the thunder of battle rolled along 
the space which extends before the south-east of 
the fortress. The French made a most stubborn 
defence, the marines of Lebrun displaying heroic 
courage, and the chassepot made its superiority felt 
in what was, in a great measure, a combat in streets. 
An unfortunate incident had already occurred ; 
Macmahon, who had ridden to the front of the line, 
still hoping to find his way to Carignan, had been 
struck by the splinter of a shell, and he handed over 
the chief command to Ducrot, a lieutenant, in whom 
he justly placed confidence. Ducrot, we have seen, 
as far back as the 30th of August, had judged 
correctly that a retreat on Mezieres \Yas the only^ 
chance of safety for the endangered French, and he 
instantly gave orders'^ that the whole army should 
fall back to the heights of Illy, and endeavour to 
force its way westwards. This movement could not 
have conjured away a disaster, but it might have 
saved a large part of the Army of Chalons ; yet, at 
the supreme moment, it was arrested by interference, 
unwise and calamitous. 

Wimpffen believed, like Macmahon, that the true 

1 " Operer sa retraite sur ses renforts un des trois grandes rfegles 
de la guerre." — Napoleon. 

2 The '^Prussian Staff History," vol. ii. pp. 323-4, does not 
explain tliis clearly. Moltke, "■ Precis of Franco- German War," 
vol. i. p. 119, is quite accurate. 

204 MOLTKE. 

course to adopt was to attempt to break tlirougli 
the enemy in front, and, by Carignan, to advance on 
Moutmedy ; and, assuming the chief command after 
the Marshal's fall, he countermanded Ducrot's 
orders and directed the army to hold its ground. 
At this time the French still maintained their posi- 
tions ; they made repeated and . vigorous efforts to 
fall on the Bavarians and Saxons, and so to force 
a passage and escape eastwards. But the 4th corps 
of the Army of the Meuse had reached the field about 
9 a.m. ; the Guards, who had had a long way to 
march, through a difficult and thickly wooded 
tract, had speedily joined in a general attack ; the 
crushing fire of the Prussian batteries told decisively 
as the battle developed, and the pressure on the 
French proved impossible to withstand, as the line 
of fire became more intense, and spread on all sides 
as far as Givonne. By noon the line of the Givonne 
was lost ; the hamlets on it had been stormed or 
abandoned; and the 1st and 12th corps were driven 
backward into the valley to the south and east of 
Sedan. They rallied in this position on a second 
line, but their situation was already critical in the 

Ere long a tremendous storm had burst on the 
north-western front of the French ar my. The mass 
of the Third Army had marched through the night, 
and by the early morning the 5th and 11th corps, 
the Wiirtembergers being some distance to the left, 
had reached the Meuse, and were crossing the river. 
Besides the principal bridge of Donchery, artificial 
bridges had been made — a , striking contrast to 

SEDAN. 205 

Macmalion's negligence — for celerity was of supreme 

importance; and the Germans were arrayed on 

tlie northern bank at between 7 and 8 a.m. The 

march, however, to reach the position of the French 

was long, and retarded by many hindrances ; the 

great bend of the Meuse closed part of the way ; 

the country was thickly covered by wood, and it was 

nearly 11 a.m. before the first troops of the lltli 

corps had reached St. Menges and Fleigneux, 

advanced posts of the 7th corps of Douay. Batteries 

were pushed forward to support the infantry, but 

the 5th corps was not yet on the scene ; the 

Wiirtembergers were far distant, observing the roads 

that led to Mezieres, and this indicates that had 

Ducrot's orders, given between 7 and 8 a.m., 

been speedily and thoroughly carried out, the Army 

of Chalons might have, in part, escaped, even if 

assailed in flank by a victorious enemy, and probably 

in the rear by the Army of the Meuse. The 7th 

French corps met tlie enemy boldly, and even 

attempted counter attacks, but St. Menges and 

Fleigneux were scarcely defended, and after a fierce 

and protracted struggle, Floing was captured, and 

the triumphant Germans pressed towards and seized 

the heights of Illy, nearly joining hands with the 

advancing Guards, who had occupied, we have seen, 

Givonne. An iron circle was closing round the 

French, but their disaster was ennobled by a fine 

feat of arms. The few good cavah^y of the Army of 

Chalons made a magnificent^ effort to beat back the 

^ King William, who witnessed these heroic charges from a 
distant hill, exclaimed, " What splendid troops." The " Prussian 

206 MOLTKE. 

enemy, and, tlioiigh tliey failed, some hundreds of 
these gallant horsemen contrived to effect their 
escape into Belgium. 

It was now three in the afternoon, and nothing 
could save the defeated French from the coming 
doom. To the east and south-east, the troops of 
the 1st and 12th corps were gradually forced from 
their new positions, and were driven back on the 
ramparts of Sedan. To the north and north-east, 
the uniting columns of the Prussian Guards and of 
the 5th and 11th corps spread over the space from 
which Illy rises ; and the routed 7th corps was 
scattered into the valley below. The south of the 
French position was closed by the Mouse and by the 
2ud Bavarian corps, detached in the morning from 
the Third Army ; and the converging enemies 
gathered in on the ruined host, pent in a narrow 
enclosure, like a flock for the slaughter. The 5th 
French corps shared in the universal wreck, and by 
five in the afternoon a huge coil had been drawn 
around an army still of 110,000 men. Every avenue 
of escape was barred ; the cross-fire of 500 guns 
at least carried death and despair into shattered 
masses fast dissolving into chaotic multitudes ; and 
the lost battle became a massacre. Yet even in 
this hour of appalling woe noble hearts rose superior 

Staff," vol. ii. p. 375, and Moltke's " Precis of the Franco-German 
War," vol. i. p. 130, join in the tribute of admiration. General 
Gallifet, one of the leaders of these noble squadrons, survives, 
and is one of the most distinguished chiefs of the new army of 

SEDAN. 207 

to Fortune. Wimpffen hastily collected a few 
thousand men and made a frantic effort to break 
througli by Bazeilles ; and little knots of fugitives, 
eluding their foes, made their way over the adjoin- 
ing frontier. It is useless, however, to dwell on 
the struggles of caged animals caught in the trap of 
the hunter. The Army of Chcllons soon ceased to 
exist,'- and became a horde filling the approaches to 
Sedan, and crowding its streets with wounded men 
and stragglers. Scenes of hideous insubordination 
and fiiry closed a catastrophe without a parallel in 

Napoleon III. had visited the field of battle on 
the morniug of this great and terrible day. He was 
suffering, however, from a cruel disease, and was 
unable to keep his seat on horseback, and he 
witnessed from the interior of Sedan the appalling 
rout of the Army of Chalons. Towards the close of 
the day, when all hope had vanished, he very pro- 
perly rejected the advice of Wimpffen, to put him- 
self at the head of a handf id of men and to endea- 

1 General Ducrot, " KScdau," p. 48, gives us this description of the 
appearance of the town at the close of the struggle : — "A I'interieur 
de Sedan, le spectacle etait indescriptible ; les rues, les places, les 
portes I'taient encombrces de voitures, de chariots, de canons, de 
tons les impedimenta et debris d'une arnu'e en deroute. J)es 
bandes de soldats, sans fusils, ?ans sacs, accouraient a tout 
moment, se jetaient dans les maisons, dans les eglises. Aux 
portes de la ville on s'ecrasait. Plusieurs malheureux perirent 
pi(^tines. A travers cette foule, accouraient des cavaliers ventre a 
terre, des caissons passaiont au galop, se taillant un chemin au 
milieu de ces masses aft'alces." 

208 MOLTKE. 

vour to escape from a scene of horror, and lie 
rightly ordered the white flag to be raised as a 
sign that all resistance had ceased, and that the time 
had come to stop useless and murderous car- 
nage. Negotiations had soon begun at Donchery ; 
Wimpffen, much against his will, represented the 
French, and Bismarck and Moltke were the envoys 
of the King of Prussia to treat for victorious Ger- 
many. The interview, a great scene of history, 
brought out clearly one side of Moltke' s character. 
Bismarck spoke of the cession of Alsace and Lorraine, 
but was generous to the defeated enemy, and seemed 
willing to discuss conditions of peace. Moltke did 
justice to the courage of the French, but was harsh, 
peremptory, and stiff in his manner, and his 
language showed that he rather desired to annihilate 
foes already crushed. He was not to blame for 
insisting that the French troops should lay down 
their arms and become prisoners of war, and he was 
within his right, when, a few hours afterwards, he 
rejected a proposal of the ill-fated Emperor, that 
they should march into Belgium, pledged not to 
fight again. War is not an affair of sentiment, and 
there were special reasons, in the existing state of 
France, when the Empire evidently was on the brink 
of ruin, and there could be little hope of a stable 
government, that concessions should not be lightly 
granted. But Moltke' s bearing was unnecessarily 
severe, and in the hour of his triumph he ought not 
to have sneered at "the presumption and shallow- 
ness " of the French people, an expression which 

SEDAN. 209 

wounded French nature to the quick. The con- 
duct of Marlborough to Tallard, after Blenheim, and 
of Napoleon to the Austrian officers at Ulm, pre- 
sents a striking and painful contrast/ and the atti- 
tude of Moltke on this great occasion reveals a dis- 
like and scorn of France, and a want of tact and of 
knowledge of men, to be noticed in more than one 
passage of his career. 

The German armies on the field of Sedan were 
about 180,000 or 190,000 strong, with from 600 to 
700 guns ; the Army of Chalons had about 350 
guns, and numbered, in the morning, 120,000 men. 
Defeat could not have been averted, yet this fright- 
ful disaster should not have occurred. When the 
Germans, indeed, had encircled their prey, it was 
impossible to resist or escape ; the French, placed 
in positions from the first too confined, were driven 
in a multitude against a worthless fortress ; all 
avenues of retreat were effectually shut, and the 
German batteries had free play on the mass of 
routed soldiery. But had Ducrot's advice been fol- 
lowed, a considerable part of the Army of Chalons 
would, in all probability, have reached Mezieres, 
and it would have been better to have tried to break 
out for Carignan, before the German armies had 
met at Illy, than to wait to be caught in a deadly 
trap, even if this movement must have led to defeat. 

1 How different was the policy of the chiefs of conquering Kome, 
expressed in the noble lines of Virgil: — 

" Hse tibi sint artes ; pacisque imponere morem, 
Parcere subjectis, et debellare superbos." 


210 MOLTKE. 

Nothing can excuse such a calamity as Sedan, 
and the responsibility largely falls on Wimpffen, 
for interfering with Ducrot at a most critical 
time, and for insisting on adopting a most unwise 
course.' The scenes that followed the capitulation 
of Sedan form one of the darkest pages in the 
annals of France. In view of the birth-place of 
Turenne — we may fancy the shade of that great 
warrior indignant at the events of the preceding 
days — and on plains thickly strewn with the ravages 
of war, 85,000 disarmed and captive men, the re- 
mains of the lost Army of Chalons, were huddled 
within enclosures near the Mouse, until their con- 
querors should obtain the means to transport them 
beyond the Rhine and the Elbe. The unhappy Em- 
peror had already gone ; confusion had waited on 
his banners, and it was, indeed, idle to state that the 
heir of Napoleon went into exile, attended by a 
brilliant escort of the soldiery whose fathers had 
witnessed Jena. The bearing of the French was 
characteristic of the race ; imprecations fell from 
many passionate lips, cries that " We are betrayed 
and abandoned " were loudly heard; and the fool 

1 For the chances of the escape of the Army of Chalons had 
Ducrot's orders been carried out, see Ducrot's " Sedan," pp. 27, 28, 
The general is too sanguine, but his view is remarkable. It ruay 
fairly be said that had he commanded in chief on the 30th of 
August, the army would have got to Mezieres, and Sedan would 
not have been fought. The arguments of Wimpffen are quite 
untenable. We shall notice the observations of Villars and Napo- 
leon on disasters of this kind, when we come to the surrender 
of Metz, 

SEDAN. 211 

fury of Paris blended with the sullenness of despair. 
Yet the attitude of thousands was manly and noble ; 
the martial port, the undaunted countenance of the 
disciplined veteran were not changed, and eye- 
witnesses have told how, even in this hour of woe, 
brave hearts still beat high with hope for France. 
The vast material of the Army of Chalons fell a 
trophy of war into the hands of the victors. 

Sedan forms the third act in the drama of the 
war ; it was the prelude to the fall of the French 
Empire, and to the renewal of the struggle under, 
changed conditions. The Imperial armies of France 
had been swept from the open field, and all that 
remained of them was the army of Bazaine, immured 
around Metz, and soon to become captive. Such 
disasters had never been witnessed before ; they 
surpassed Austerlitz, Jena, and Friedland, and the 
idolaters of success, it is needless to sa}^ have 
extolled the victories of the Grermans as miracles 
of war, and have described Moltke as the first of 
strategists. Impartial history pronounces a different 
judgment, though she gives the meed of de- 
served eulogy. The operations of Moltke in this 
episode of the .campaign were very superior to 
those around Metz, which have been rightly sub- 
jected to adverse comments. The formation and 
direction of the Army of the Meuse, the invest- 
ment of Metz, as affairs stood, and above all, 
the admirable night march on Sedan, exhibit, 
almost in the highest degree, decision, promptness, 

and clear insight, and they were undoubtedly 

p 2 

212 MOLTKE. 

the moves of a great commander. The immense 
superiority, too, of the German armies in essential 
elements of military power, over the ill-organized 
Army of Chtllons, was illustrated in the fullest 
completeness ; it naturally exceeded all that had 
been seen before, in the case of the more efficient 
Army of the Rhine, But when it is alleged that the 
advance on Sedan was even finer than the advance 
on Ulm, in the memorable campaign of 1805, and 
that the victory of Sedan shows more genius than 
Ulm, a fair inquirer must express an emphatic 
protest. It is one thing to move armies a few 
leagues, towards an object already almost within 
sight, and quite another to move armies from 
Hanover and Brittany to the Upper Danube, 
and if Sedan was a " bigger thing " than Ulm, it 
does not give proof, on the part of the conquerors, 
of equal forethought or strategic power. Moltke 
showed in many passages of his career great resolu- 
tion and force of character, and he could deal most 
ably with what was at hand and before him. But 
he did not possess the imagination that sees into 
the unknown, or the supreme genius that regulates 
grand movements, at immense distances, and re- 
mote in time ; in this, as in many other respects, he 
is not to be compared with Napoleon, and, spite 
of the telegraph and appliances of the kind, 
the strategy of Ulm and Marengo surpassed his 
achievements. It should be added that, at Sedan, 
as throughout the war, he had an overwhelming 
superiority of force, and Macmahon played into 

SEDAN. 213 

his hands even more completely than Mack played 
into those of Napoleon. 

As for the operations of the French, ending at 
Sedan, they were at least as faulty as those of 
Bazaine, although for very different reasons. Mac- 
mahon was a brave and intelligent soldier, his cap- 
ture of the Malakoff, his march to Magenta, were 
dashing, brilliant and well conceived exploits, but a 
general of division, Napoleon has remarked, is very 
different from a general-in- chief, and Macmahon 
was unfit for supreme command. His march to the 
Meuse admits of no excuse ; he knew that he ought 
to fall back on Paris ; he was perfectly aware of his 
enemy's movements ; and yet he consented to a fatal 
course to assist a colleague, and to prop up a 
government. Still more unpardonable was his 
resolve to advance eastwards on the 28th of August, 
and to give up the retreat to Mezieres ; this was a 
deliberate sacrifice, for supposed reasons of state, 
of the most obvious principles of war; and, we re- 
peat, this conduct was well-nigh criminal. Nothing, 
too, could be more unwise and feeble than the 
inactivity of the 31st of August, the indecision in 
not moving on Mezieres, the neglect to break down 
the bridges on the Meuse ; and Macmahon's idea, to 
which he clung to the last, that he might be able to 
reach Carignan and Metz, proves that he had no 
knowledge of the higher parts of war. Vacillation, 
hesitation, and want of purpose, were the faults of 
the Marshal during these woful days, and he showed 
himself to be without the streng:th of character 

214 MOLTKE. 

which ISTapoleon has called the best quality of a chief. 
He was, no doubt, an honourable and high-minded 
man, and it is to his credit that, in an inquiry on 
Sedan, he took the whole responsibility on himself, 
and blamed neither the Government nor his lieu- 
tenants. But he was utterly in error in hinting, as 
he did, that his fall may have changed the fortunes 
of the day; he would have rejected the advice of 
Ducrot ; Wimpffen obstinately carried his ideas out, 
and a tremendous catastrophe was the result. It is 
unnecessary to dwell on the bad condition of the 
Army of Chalons compared to its enemy ; this cir- 
cumstance alone should have induced Macmahon to 
avoid the calamitous march eastwards, and that he 
did not retreat on Paris was one principal cause 
that France succumbed, and was compelled to bow 
to the will of the conqueror. 


Advance of the Army of the Meuse and of the chief part of 
the Third Army through France — The Germans in front of 
Paris — Confidence of Moltke — His miscalculation in suppos- 
ing that France would yield in a short time — Eevolution of 
4th September — The Government of National Defence — 
Paris resolves to stand a siege — Eesources of the capital in 
material and in military force ^ — Investment of Paris by the 
German armies — Trochu and Ducrot — The zone of investment 
-.—The zone of defence — Sorties made by the Parisian levies 
— Gambetta — The rising of France against the invaders — 
Organization of the defence — Extraordinary ability and 
energy of Gambetta — Formation of provincial armies — 
Erroneous views of Moltke as to the reality of the defence 
of France — Fall of Laon, Toul, Strasbourg, Soissons, and 
other places — First defeats of the French provincial armies 
— The resistance continues — Conduct of Bazaine after the 
investment of Metz — The 26th of August at Metz — The 
battle of Noisseville — Criminal negligence and intrigues of 
Bazaine- — The fall of Metz — Reflections on these events. 

Sedan had engulplied, as if in an earthquake, the 
last army of France in the field, and the Army of 
the Rhine was immured at Metz, a circle of iron 
thrown around it. All that seemed required to 
bring the war to a close was to march on Paris at 
once, to witness its fall, and to dictate the terms of 
a triumphant peace. Moltke had accomplished more 
than he had deemed possible, and in the serene 
confidence of speedy success, he directed an im- 

216 MOLTKE. 

mediate advance on tlie capital, carrying out the 
design he had formed from the first. Two corps ^ 
were left to watch the captives of Sedan, with orders 
to follow in the wake of the conquerors, and within 
three days after the great surrender, the Army 
of the Meuse and the Third Army, now composed 
of six and a half corps," had uncoiled themselves 
from around the fortress which had been the scene 
of the 1st of September, and were on their way for 
the plains of Champagne, through the difficult 
region of the Argonne. The invaders moved on an 
immense front, the Army of Meuse spreading over 
the valley of the Aisne, pushing detachments north- 
wards, as far as Laon, and descending into the valleys 
of the Ourcq and the Oise; the Third Army filling 
the valley of the Marne, and extending to the dis- 
tant valley of the Aube. Historic towns and strong- 
holds were passed on the march, and scenes 
illustrated by the genius of Turenne, and by the 
immortal exploits of 1814 ; but France seemed 
unable to lift up her head, and the German masses 
rolled steadily onwards, encountering no resistance 
on their path. By the 16th and 17th September, 
the two armies, drawing towards each other, had 
entered the region of forest and hill, of winding 
river and of fertile plain, of which Paris, girdled 

1 The 11th Prussian and 1st Bavarian corps. 

2 The Army of the Meuse was still composed of the Guards and 
the 4th and 12th corps ; the Third Army was composed at this 
time of the 5th and 6th Prussian corps, of the 2nd Bavarian, 
and of the Wiirtemhergers. 


by her dependent villages and suburbs, forms the 
imposing centre, and thousands of peasants, flock- 
ing in with their household stuff, had given tlie 
capital almost the only sign of the approach of the 
all-mastering enemy. One incident only had ruffled 
the calm of a movement that seemed a huge triumphal 
progress. The 13th corps of Vinoy, which, we 
have seen, had been sent to Mezieres to support 
Macmahon, had rapidly fallen back, at the close of 
the battle, and the 6th Prussian corps, even now 
in its rear, had made an attempt to cut off its 
retreat. Vinoy, however, skilfully making forced 
marches, had succeeded in efl'ecting his escape by 
Laon ; and his troops, increased by numerous 
fugitives from Sedan, reached Paris in safety 
before the invaders. 

Probability is the rule of life, and you must act 
quickly on probabilities in war. Moltke is not to 
be blamed, if tried by this test, for advancing on 
Paris, with a full conviction that the city would 
fall and France succumb in a few days, or, at most, 
a few weeks. The armies of the Empire had been 
swept from the scene ; the Empire itself had become 
a phantom, and could a nation under the heel of a 
conqueror resist the omnipotent hosts of Germany ? 
Not a soldier beyond the Rhine, and very few in 
France, believed that Paris, although fortified, could 
hold out against a victorious enemy ; and France had 
yielded, in 1814 and 1815, when the example had 
been set by the capital. A Prussian commander, 
too, might reasonably suppose that, after disasters 

218 MOLTKE. 

surpassing Jena, the Frencli would imitate the 
Prussian people, especially as Austria and Italy had 
abandoned France, and her misfortunes had left her 
without a friend in Europe. All the chances, there- 
fore, seemed on the side of Moltke, and if we 
accept the criterion of success, his strategy was 
altogether justified, for Paris and France were sub- 
dued at last. 

The march on Paris was, nevertheless, a mistake, 
founded on calculations that proved false, and that 
very nearly changed the fortunes of the war. Like 
most soldiers, Moltke had little faith in moral power 
in conflict with material force ; he had a rooted 
dislike and contempt for Frenchmen, and he did 
not believe that France would make a real effort 
to vindicate her great name, and to oppose the 
invader. This, however, was a complete error, 
and there were other considerations that might have 
made the Prussian leader pause in his march of 
conquest. Paris had more than once resisted an 
enemy; it had now become a gigantic fortress; 
over and over again, in her splendid history, France 
had risen Phoenix-like from her ashes; and, 
" stamping her proud foot had called legions out of 
the earth," which had discomfited even the Leagues 
of Europe. Metz, too, had not fallen as yet; the 
German armies, in the march to Paris, were only^ 
150,000 strong, and could not be largely increased 
for a time ; a net- work of strongholds stood in their 
rear, and not even one of the great railway lines to 
1 "Prussian Staff History," Part ii. pp. 1, 32. 


the capital had been completely mastered. Was it 
wise, therefore, under these conditions, to plunge 
into the interior of France, a country, which, 
prostrate as it was, was rich in elements of power 
for war, and with communications, so to speak, 
strangled, to attack an immense and fortified city, 
which could not be assaulted, or regularly besieged, 
for a period of many months at least ? Moltke, 
however, took the hazardous course ; and, as the 
result, Paris resisted stubbornly. France rose, 
almost to a man, to arms ; the invaders were placed 
in grave peril, the resources of Germany were cruelly 
strained, to an extent that, perhaps, will be never 
known ; she triumphed after a protracted contest, 
owing to accidents mainly, on which she could not 
reckon ; and if France was at last vanquished, she 
assuredly taught her foes a lesson, not to advance 
hastily to the Loire and the Seine, and she inscribed 
another grand page on the national annals. Tt is 
not difiBcult, after the event, to see that Moltke 
might have obtained all that Germany obtained 
at last, without running enormous risks, and setting 
fortune on the hazard of the die. But if he was in 
error, he made the mistake made by Napoleon, 
when he advanced on Moscow, and omniscience is 
not given to the children of men. 

During the march of the German armies throuo-h 
France, a revolution had broken out in Paris. The 
Governmeut of the Regency had done much to 
increase the national resources for war, and 
especially to strengthen the menaced capital ; but 

220 MOLTKE. 

tbe Empire had been long undermined ; Palikao, 
tlie Imperial War Minister, had insisted on the 
fatal advance to the Meiise, and at the intelligence 
of the disaster of Sedan, Paris rose up in fury 
against the men in office. Scenes, too like those of 
1792, were witnessed ; mobs broke into the As- 
sembly of the State, clamouring for the *' deposition 
of the Man of Sedan ;" the Empress, to her honour, 
retired into Belgium, in order to avert a civil war ; 
and at a tumultuous meeting at the City Town 
Hall, the leaders of the party which, since 1851, 
had always been sworn foes of the Empire, declared 
that Napoleon III. had forfeited his crown, and set 
up a Eepublic in his stead. A Provisional Govern- 
ment was quickly formed ; it had seized the reins 
of power by the 4th of September, and it proclaimed 
itself a " Government of National Defence," pledged 
to resist the invader to the last. The nominal head 
of the new power was Trochu, a general of some 
parts and distinction, for years neglected under the 
Empire ; but its master spirit was Leon Gambetta, 
a lawyer little known, but a man of genius, of a 
rash and domineering nature, indeed, yet endowed 
with the supreme gift of command ; and if the 
Government had no lawful origin, it represented 
the convictions of Paris, and, as was soon to appear, 
of the nation, both resolved to defend the soil of 
France. The ministry entered on its functions at 
once, and while the veteran statesman, Thiers, 
went on a mission to the Courts of the Great 
Powers, to plead for France and to invoke their 


To face puye 221. 


sympatliy, it addressed itself to the gigantic task 
of preparing to withstand the German invasion. 
Negotiation, indeed, was tried for a moment ; but 
as Bismarck insisted on harsh conditions, which 
Favre, the new Foreign Minister, would not accept, 
it failed, and war was the only alternative. Spite of 
the cynical scoffs of politicians and soldiers, who 
believed further resistance hopeless, Paris girded 
up her loins for the contest, declaring that France 
would yield " neither her lands nor her fortresses ;" 
and the whole nation proved by heroic deeds, that the 
noble cry of patriotism was no vainglorious boast. 

The enemy, however, was at the gates of Paris, 
and how was it to resist his efforts ? As early as 
July the Imperial Government had taken precau- 
tions for the defence of the city, and, after "Worth 
and Spicheren, the Regency, we have said, had ac- 
complished much to secure this object. Immense 
stores of provisions were laid in ; heavy guns were 
brought from the great naval arsenals ; large bodies 
of marines and sailors and of Gardes Mobiles were 
gathered together within the capital ; munitions of 
war of all kinds were collected, and attempts were 
made to strengthen the fortifications of the place, 
by constructing earthworks, redoubts, and entrench- 
ments. The new Government owed much to these 
labours, but the Revolution, which had just taken 
place, undoubtedly quickened into intense activity 
the exertions of the world of Paris, patriotic and 
w arlike in all ages, though on the surface given to 
ease and pleasure. Local committees were formed 

222 MOLTKE. 

by the citizens themselves, connected with a great 
Central Committee of Defence, composed of 
Trochu, and other men in power, and the work of 
obtaining supplies, of forming and drilling troops, 
of clearing ramparts, of repairing forts, of making 
improvised armed lines, and, in short, of turning 
the city into a real fortress, capable of enduring a 
protracted siege, went on with marvellously rapid 
and fruitful results. 

By the second week of September Paris was in 
a state of preparation to resist the Germans, far 
more complete than was generally supposed. For 
the time, indeed, it was really safe, for Moltke had 
never thought of trying to assault a city which 
could be made a mass of barricades, not to refer to 
its walls and forts, and the invaders did not 
possess any artillery for a siege. In fact, the 
capital was already prodigiously strong, and the 
only present defect in its armour was the absence of 
an effective military force. Yinoy's corps, indeed, 
had fortunately returned, and a new corps, the 14th, 
had been formed and placed under the command of 
Ducrot, the ablest of the French chiefs at Sedan ; 
but these arrays, though fully 70,000 strong, were 
composed for the most part of rude levies, of troops 
from depots, of men of the untried reserves, and 
contained only two trained regiments. There were 
also about 115,000 Gardes Mobiles, youths without 
discipline or experience in war, and to these should 
be added a huge assemblage of about 300,000 ' 

1 The "Prussian Staff History," Part ii. p. 30, is incorrect 


National Guards, traders, artisans, and partly the 
scum of the populace, as a whole little fit for the 
work of soldiers. The administrative services, too, 
required for armies, were deficient, or in a most 
embryonic state, and, in short, of the half million of 
men who were to defend Paris, not 20,000 were 
real troops. Intelligence, energy and devoted 
courage can, nevertheless, do much behind armed 
walls, and the city was to give a noble example of 
this truth to the world. 

Moltke had never hesitated as to the true method 
of operating against and reducing Paris, an event 
which he believed not distant. His orders were 
given on the 16th and 17th of September, and on 
the following day the Army of the Meuse began to 
close round the city to the east and the north. 
The advancing masses met no resistance, and by 
the 19th they had traced a great investing line, 
extending from Neuilly on the Marne to the Seine 
beyond Paris. Two fronts of the capital were thus 
hemmed in, and meanwhile the Third Army had 
addressed itself to the task of surrounding the 
southern and western fronts. The Seine was 
crossed between Villeneuve Saint Georges and 
Corbeil, and the invaders advanced along the 
heights overlooking the capital from Clamart and 
Chatillon, towards Sevres, Marly, and Versailles, in 

in estimating the entire number of the men employed at first in 
defending Paris at 300,000 only. General Ducrot, in his elaborate 
work, " La Defense de Paris," livre ii. chap, i., computes them at 
nearly half a million. 

224 MOLTKE. 

order to complete the investing circle. They were 
not, however, unmolested on the march, and on the 
19th the first engagement took place between the 
conquerors and the Republican levies. Trochu, a 
cautious and able, but not a daring man, had wished 
to confine Paris to a passive defence, but Ducrot, a 
chief of a higher order, had persuaded him to allow 
the 14th corps to fall boldly on the flank of the 
G-ermaus, as they wound round this side of the city, 
especially as Clamart and Chatillon were points of 
vantage, if possible not to be won by the enemy. 
A brisk and well contested encounter followed, but 
a panic seized a part of the untrained French 
troops, and Ducrot was ultimately forced to retreat. 
The views of Trochu seemed thus justified; the 
French refrained from offensive movements, and 
indeed, for a time, showed few signs of life, and 
the Germans had soon made their way to Versailles. 
Having gained the positions they sought around 
Paris, the invaders proceeded to strengthen their 
lines of investment, and by these means to besiege 
the city.^ The capital of France has been made by 

1 For the second phase of the "war, beginning with the Siege of 
Paris, the " Prussian Staff History " should, of course, be consulted. 
But this part of the work is not so valuable as the first part ; it 
abounds in suppressions and occasionally in misrepresentation ; it 
is far from candid, and it is pervaded by a spirit of contempt for 
the efforts of France. Moltke's Precis exaggerates these faults ; 
and the same may be said of all the works on the German side 
which have come under my notice. The French authorities are 
numerous and good, and deserve careful attention. General 
Ducrot's book, and an. admirable volume by M, Viollet Le Due, 
should be studied, with General Vinoy's resume, for the Siege of 



nature an extremely formidable centre of defence, 
offering many obstacles even to the most powerful 
enemy. To the east the converging streams of the 
Marne and the Seine, running into each other at 
Charenton, present a great double fosse to a hostile 
army, compelling it to divide and to secure its rear, 
and the united rivers, now known as the Seine only, 
after passing through Paris, form a series of bends 
extending for miles, as far as Poissy, and protecting 
in three great folds the city to the west. To the 
north-east rises a great tableland, stretching from 
near Vincennes to Montreuil and Romainville, and 
opposing a barrier to attack ; and the wide plain of 
St. Denis to the north is commanded by a succes- 
sion of heights. La Villette, Belleville, and Mont- 
martre, points of vantage against an advancing 
enemy. To the south a long range of uplands 
and hills, spreading from St. Cloud to the Seine 
eastwards, by Versailles, Meudon, Sceaux and 
Villejuif, and offering to the sight from the heights 
of Ohatillon magnificent scenes of grandeur and 
beauty, covered Paris for ages from that side, and 
though this was ^ always the vulnerable front, and 

Paris. The war in the provinces has been well described by M. 
de Freycinet, by Generals D'Aurelle and Faidherbe, and especially 
by the illustrious Chanzy, as regards the operations in which they 
took part. The elaborate and careful analysis of General Derre- 
cagaix should also be perused. Eiistow's History, though written 
from a German point of view, is tolerably impartial. 

1 Edward III. advanced against Paris from the heights of 
Chatillon in 1360 ; so did Henry IV. to begin the celebrated 
siege which ended the AVar of the League. Bliicher, too, 
threatened the capital in 1815 from the south. 

226 MOLTKE. 

modern artillery, from many points of tliese eminences, 
can ravage the city, still tliey are not in any sense to 
be easily mastered if there is a trained military force 
to support the defence. In the midst of this 
immense circle of engirdling rivers, of heights rising 
into natural bastions, of highlands difficult to ascend 
and subdue, Paris, shielded from hostile approach, 
lies cradled ; a huge world of buildings stretching 
out for leagues, decked with edifices of historic 
renown, running out into petty towns and hamlets, 
and animated in all its parts by intense life and 

In the ages of Barbarism, and the Middle Ages, 
Paris, like all cities, was rudely fortified, and, as 
Napoleon has remarked, it often owed its safety to 
its walls. Louis XIV., in the plenitude of his power, 
removed the ancient ramparts to enlarge his chief 
town, but Vauban — a fact not generally known — 
proposed a scheme of new defences not unlike that 
adopted ultimately in the present century. Napoleon 
always wished to fortify Paris, but incessant war 
interfered with his purpose, and it was not untiP 
the Hundred Days that he threw up a few entrench- 
ments around the city, a precaution rendered fruit- 
less by the defeat of Waterloo. The design was 
renewed under Louis Philippe, and between 1840 
and 1845 a regular system of fortifications was 
planned and completed. The city was surrounded 
by a wall and ramparts, made difficult to assail by a 

1 Napoleon's observations on tlie fortification of Paris will be 
found in bis " Commentaries," vol. v, pp. 104-9. Ed. 1867. 


broad ditch, and ninety-four bastions were added 
to protect this inner circle of defence with their fire. 
But Paris was not to be exposed to the horrors of 
an assault, and fifteen forts were constructed beyond 
the enceinte, to increase the strength of existing 
obstacles, to guard and cover vulnerable points, 
and to keep away the approach of a hostile army. 
One fort was at the confluence of the Marne and 
the Seine ; three, combined with the old chateau of 
Vincennes, extended to the east and the north-east, 
commanding from the tableland along this front the 
valley of the Marne, and the adjoining lowlands ; 
and five more closed the plain of St. Denis, and 
shielded the historic town of that name. To the 
west there was only one fort, for an attack on that 
side was not probable, and the triple coil of the 
Seine formed a powerful defence, but this was in 
itself a fortress, and the great work of Valerien 
could sweep with its fire the peninsula next to the 
Bois de Boulogne. Not less than five forts covered 
the southern front, but these were commanded by 
the heights above, and ^ this vice in their position 
had been pointed out long before artillery possessed 
its present range and power. The south of Paris, 
therefore, remained its weakest point, and yet art 
added immensely to the strength of a spot strongly 
defended by nature. The engineers who fortified 
the French capital believed that a period of sixty 
days would be the extreme limit of its power of 
resistance ; it held out considerably more than 

1 Clarke, " Fortification," p. 69. 
Q 2 

228 MOLTKE. 

double that time under conditions of the worst 
possible kind. 

In the presence of the colossal fortress around 
which they had already gathered, the first care of 
the Germans was to secure the circle they had 
formed from attack. For this purpose, the methods 
were followed already adopted before Metz ; roads 
were broken up, batteries carefully laid, entrench- 
ments thrown up, and stockades made ; and inun- 
dations were formed on several lowlands to probi]jit 
access to an assailant. The villages, the buildings, 
the forests, the woodlands, which spread alpng every 
side of the city, gave facilities to the besiegers' 
work; these were strongly fortified, or made 
impassable, and the fairest scenes that adorned the 
adjoining tract were turned into barriers to resist 
the enemy. In a very short time, a huge line of 
investment, on a circumference of more than fifty 
miles, was drawn nearly around the whole capital, 
and the German masses were placed behind this 
immense zone, to hold Paris in their grasp, and to 
defy their foes. The invading armies had gradu- 
ally closed in, and the Army of the Meuse now held 
positions, though still beyond the range of the 
forts, from the Marne to beyond Argenteuil north- 
wards, in the second peninsula formed by the 
Seine to the west. A narrow gap was left in the 
investing line on this front ; for the besieged, it 
was believed, would not be able to cross the bends 
of the Seine on that side, before the besiegers could 
force them back ; but along the whole southern 
and south-eastern fronts, the Third Army, ere long 


reinforced by the two corps left behind at Sedan, 
extended from St. Germains to the far-distant 
points where it joined hands witli the Army of the 
Meuse, holding Marly, Versailles, Chatillon, Sceaux, 
Bonneuil, Bry, and all the other adjoining villages, 
and thus completing the besiegers' circle. Outside 
this zone, detachments of troops were sent to secure 
the passages of the rivers around, and to put down 
any hostile gatherings ; and an external zone, for 
the present imperfect, was thrown beyond the zone 
that engirdled the city. Paris was thus isolated 
and cut off from the world ; and Moltke, at the 
head of the German armies, and entrenched behind 
his impenetrable lines, calmly awaited the hour of 
its approaching fall. The revolutionary follies, he 
thought, of the citizens, would accelerate a con- 
summation which, in any event, famine would 
render certain in no long space of time. 

Paris had not been inactive during these days, 
when a kind of Chinese wall was being built 
around it. But a master-mind was wanting to the 
defence ; and this deficiency continued to the last 
moment, even if it did not affect the final result. 
There were no discords between the chiefs in com- 
mand, but there was a strongly marked divergence 
of views, and conflicting projects distracted energies 
which ought to have been concentrated on a single 
purpose. Ducrot, the more original and able man,' 
believed that the only chance for the capital was to 

^ Ducrot, '' La Defense de Paris," vol. i. pp. 316-319. This 
plan is noticed in the " Prussian Staff History," but without 
comment, a tolerable proof that it was a good one. 

230 MOLTKE. 

break the investing circle by its own efforts. He 
was convinced that France did not possess the 
means of creating a real army of relief; and, differ- 
ing from Trochu in this respect, he had formed a 
plan of operations on these assumptions. Having 
carefully surveyed the German lines, he thought 
they presented one weak point at the gap left, we have 
seen, to the west ; and he proposed to make prepara- 
tions to force a passage by the second peninsula 
formed by the bends of the Seine. A large army 
was to be collected in the first peninsula, and, under 
the protection of the fire of the great work of 
Valerien, and of other works thrown up for the 
purpose, it was to cross the river at Carrieres and 
Bezons, to establish itself in th'e second peninsula, 
overpowering any enemies in its jjath ; and escaping 
by Argenteuil to the north — a false attack was to 
keep the Germans in check here — it was to make 
its way into the valley of the Oise. Having thus 
cut through the investing zone, it was to occupy 
Rouen, and make the sea its base ; and having 
strengthened itself, and secured supplies, it was to 
summon to its aid the provincial levies, to march 
again on Paris, and to attack the enemy in the rear, 
the movement being seconded by great sorties from 
the capital. 

This operation offered some hopes of success, and 
Trochu allowed Ducrot to have his way, and to take 
the first steps to give effect to his enterprise. But 
Trochu did not approve of the project at heart, he 
did not give it earnest support ; and as no deter- 



mined attempt was made to complete it, the only 
result Avas to weaken and hamper the defence.^ 
The ideas of Trocliu, in fact, were altogether 
different from those of liis more darin": colleaofue ; 
and as he was invested with supreme command, he 
naturally insisted on carrying them out. He be- 
lieved the Germans intended to assault Paris; and 
his first care, therefore, was to seek to make the 
capital impregnable to this mode of attack. When 
this had been effected he thought that the lines of 
the invaders might be, perha23S, weakened by push- 
ing out counter approaches to them ; and he was 
willing to try the effects of sorties, in order at once 
to harass the enemy, and to inure the armed masses in 
Paris to war. But he thought that the capital could 
never save itself, and that an army of relief would 
be required to cause the raising of the siege ; and 
he looked to France to supply this force from out- 
side. He regarded Paris, in a word, as a fortress, 
to be defended and assisted in the ordinary way ; 
and his ideal was the defence of Sebastopol, a siege 
at which he had gained distinction. 

Acting on these notions Trochu proceeded to 
secure the city, in the first instance, from assault ; 
and if divided counsels were not without mischief, 
he was admirably seconded by the armed bodies in 
Paris, and especially by the citizens as a whole. 
The forts, largely garrisoned by the marines and 

1 For the evil results of the want of complete unity in direction 
and of divergent views on the defence of Paris, the reader may 
consult the admirable work of M. VioUet Ic Due in every chapter. 

232 MOLTKE. 

sailors, were manned in force, and received tlie best 
gnnners to be fonud ; the enceinte was occupied by 
tlie National Guard, and was streno-thened and 
improved in different ways, and the spaces between 
the forts were, at different points, filled by redoubts 
and entrenchments armed with powerful batteries. 
A zone of defence, which defied the enemy, was 
thus opposed to the zone of investment, both con- 
nected throughout, as at Metz, by the telegraph ; 
and this barrier in the besiegers' way became even 
more impenetrable than their hastily constructed 
lines. This gain, however, was only trifling ; 
Moltke, we have seen, had never contemplated an 
assault, and obviously if Paris could not do more 
than this, its surrender was only a question of time. 
Trochu's operations failed at this point, and it can- 
not be said that at any part of the siege he dis- 
played the qualities of a great captain, even if Paris 
could not have averted its fall. Nevertheless, the 
city made immense exertions on the principles of 
defence laid down by its rulers. A system of 
counter approaches was begun, and a series of 
vigorous sorties was made against the enemy's lines 
in many directions. These attacks, protected by 
the fire of the forts, were ultimately repelled in every 
instance, but two were, for a time, successful ; they 
were most honourable to the Parisian levies, and, in 
fact, they were much more effective than the 
wretched demonstrations made about this time by 
the army of Bazaine enclosed in Metz. Meanwhile, 
Trochu and his lieutenants continued the work of 


organizing and forming into soldiers the armed 
multitudes within the capital, and, all things con- 
sidered, the resnlts were wonderful. Two bodies, 
deserving in some measure the name of armies, 
were by degrees arrayed, and even the National 
Guards did good service. Yet one great and im- 
portant mistake was made ; after the bad fashion 
of a revolutionary time, the Gardes Mobiles and 
the National Guards were allowed to elect their own 
officers, and this not only greatly injured the defence, 
but proved a cause of frightful disasters afterwards. 
The close of October was now at hand, and, 
though besieged for nearly six weeks, Paris re- 
mained defiant, and showed no signs of yielding. 
The defences of the city could resist any attack; 
the levies within the walls were acquiring, by degrees, 
something like military discipline and worth, and 
had given proof of this in more than one encounter. 
The positive results were not, perhaps, very great, 
and yet they had begun to attract the attention of 
thousands of observers in many lands. The attitude 
of the great mass of the citizens was the most distinc- 
tive feature of this period. Men of all ages had 
taken up arms ; the elders held watch on the ram- 
parts and walls ; the youths filled the ranks of the 
quickly increasing armies. Every calling, profession, 
and trade ministered to the great duty of maintain- 
ing the defence ; and the energy and intelligence 
that were displayed in supplying the innumerable 
requirements for the levies and troops, were, in the 
highest degree, admirable. The activity of 1793 

234 MOLTKE. 

was witnessed again, but without the crimes of the 
Keigu of Terror, and Paris exhibited a truly heroic 
aspect. Sounds of revohitionary passion were 
heard, of discontent, of fretful impatience ; but 
these had no real or lasting effect, and the world of 
the capital rallied round the Government, despising 
privations already severe, and resolved to fight and 
to endure to the last. An ebullition of anarchy, 
caused by the failure of Thiers to obtain assistance 
for France,^ was put down without the least diffi- 
culty ; Jacobinism had no hold on the heart of the 

While Paris, in spite of divided counsels and of 
military resources imperfect in the extreme, was 
thus holding the invaders at bay, a great change 
had almost transformed France. Three members 
of the Government of National Defence had gone to 
Tours to arouse the provinces, and to call on the 
nation to take part in the war ; but their mission 
had been almost wholly fruitless. It was otherwise 
when a man of real power appeared on the scene, 
and made his presence felt. Gambetta, escaping 
from Paris in a l)alloon, had joined his colleagues 
in the first days of October ; he addressed himself 
to the herculean task of organizing France against 
the conquerors, and the results he achieved astounded 
Europe. The mass of Frenchmen, accustomed for 
years to repose, and subjected to a despotic cen- 

1 The account of tins petty outbreak by the Prussian Staff is 
thoroughly unfair. " History," part ii. vol. i. pp. 261, 262. 
" Cleneral Ducrot," vol. ii. pp. 39, 70, is accurate and impartial. 


tralized government, had scarcely lifted up a hand 
to attack the enemy ; thoy showed tlie apathy of 
1814-15 ; they had looked listlessly on while the 
German armies were overrunning the natal soil. 
And if the nation appeared to be wanting to itself, 
the means of prolonging the war seemed equally 
absent. A few thousand men of the Algerian army, 
some thousands of troops, still in their depots, and 
a mass of young recruits and of Gardes Mobiles, 
were the only materials of military power at hand 
which remained to France in the hour of her agony. 
To compose armies that could take the field out of 
these feeble elements might have been deemed im- 
possible ; ^ there was an immense deficiency of 
trained officers, of artillery, of small-arms, of horses, 
of trains, of all the equipment essential to organized 
force ; and the many departments of which the ser- 
vice is required to maintain troops on foot, to 
make them efficient, and to support war, being 
confined by the Empire to two or three large centres, 
were not to be found generally in the provinces 
of France. The new levies, too, would, even in 
mere numbers, be very inferior to the German 
hosts, if they could not be enormously increased, 
Gambetta, however, did not hesitate ; he pos- 
sessed the creative genius of Italy, an indomitable 

^ For these details, and for the results of Gambetta's efforts, 
the reader should consult M. de Freycinet's " La Guerre en 
Province." This able man was Gambetta's best support, and has 
played a conspicuous part in reorganizing the military power of 
France. Riistow's History may also be studied, vol. ii. chaps. 30-4. 

236 MOLTKE. 

will, and a strong nature ; and extraordinary success 
attended his efforts. His first care was to summon , 
into the field all tlie existing military forces of 
France, and to form corps d'armee, or lesser divi- 
sions out of the bodies of men bound by law to 
serve. At the same time the wealth, and the 
credit of France were employed in obtaining the 
material of war from all parts of the civilized 
world ; and as the Germans had no fleets at sea, 
stores of munitions of war and supplies of all kinds, 
hundreds of cannon, and rifles in tens of thousands, 
were poured rapidly into the French ports. Gam- 
betta turned his attention next to organizing and 
preparing the levies thus raised ; he found old 
soldiers to fill the place of officers ; he sought com- 
manders in men in retreat, or passed over by the 
Imperial Government, and especially in officers 
drawn from the fleets ; and the civil service yielded 
hundreds of recruits to assist the military service 
in its different branches. By these means, in an 
incredibly short time, the elements of armies were 
put together, and in less than a month more than 
90,000 men were in the field, ready to fight for 
France, and not devoid of real military power. 
These forces, however, were quite inadequate ; and 
Gambetta made a passionate appeal to the patriot- 
ism and energy of the French people. The nation, 
which in every phase of its history, has always 
required a great leader to bring out its noblest and 
best qualities, shook off its lethargy like an 
evil dream. Frenchmen flocked in multitudes from 


Brittany to Provence, to draw their swords in the 
defence of their country ; the impulse effaced divi- 
sions of class ; peer and peasant stood up in arms 
together, and enormous levies en masse were formed 
in the provinces, in eager response to the demands 
of the Government. The movement was sponta- 
neous, universal, amazing ; it surpassed even the 
rising of 1793, and it proved that France had not 
fallen from her high estate. 

In this way, a prodigious addition was made to 
the troops already combined and prepared. The 
new levies were placed in camps of instruction to 
be made fitted for the work of war ; and France was 
divided into a set of districts to furnish what was 
required for her young soldiers. Meanwhile sup- 
plies from the outer world continued to flow in ; 
England, the United States, and many other lands 
became, in fact, arsenals for the needs of France ; 
and Gambetta actually raised and equipped an 
armed force of 600,000 men, and put into the field 
1400 guns within three months from his first 
appearance at Tours. Extraordinary means were 
adopted to make the levies capable of playing a real 
part in the war. Men of promise were advanced 
and made officers ; the customary rules of promotion 
were annulled in favour of merit wherever found, 
and soldiers from foreign lands were invited to join 
in a crusade for the defence of France. Nor were 
irregular forces wanting to supplement the impro- 
vised armies ; bands of free-shooters were raised and 
armed in every district tit for a guerilla warfare ; 

238 MOLTKE. 

and thousands of these marksmen swarmed in the 
passes of the Vosges, or in the woods and forests 
around Paris. 

Even the best of these levies, it is unnecessary 
to say, were not to be compared to the German 
armies. They contained comparatively few soldiers ; 
their officers were not in sufficient numbers, and, 
in many instances, were bad and unskilful ; they 
wanted cohesion, experience, and self-reliance ; and 
much of their material was of an inferior kind. 
But they exhibited the peculiar fitness of French- 
men for war ; they had thousands of gallant men in 
their ranks, and the elements of the armed strength 
of France were being combined and made effective 
beyond what had been deemed possible. Towards 
the close of October there were three bodies in the 
field that had some pretensions to the name of 
armies. The first, the 15th corps, called the Army 
of the Loire, had been formed in the region around 
Orleans ; the second, known as the Army of the 
East, was gathering in Burgundy, and Franche 
Comte ; and the third, the Army of the North, 
was collected in Normandy. These arrays, how- 
ever, were but the first line of the immense masses 
being assembled from all parts of the territory of 
France, and being made ready to appear in the field. 

The resolution and firmness shown by Paris, and 
the universal rising of France were treated at first 
by Moltke with scornful contempt. He was con- 
vinced, we have seen, that the city would soon 
yield ; and France, he believed, had no real means 


of resistance. Disliking, as he did, the French 
character, he langlied at the phrases of Parisian 
rhetoric, and he failed to perceive the depth and 
the strength of the national movement against the 
invaders. In his eyes the Provisional Government 
was an illegal junta without right or power; tlie 
defence of Paris was wicked foolishness, causing 
havoc and waste to no purpose ; the provincial 
armies and the levy en masse were partly mythical 
and partly worthless. There was no real patriotism 
or sense of duty in France ; and the immense masses 
summoned to take up arms were droves of unwilling 
peasants and artisans, compelled by tyranny and 
imposture to shed their blood to no purpose. He 
judged France in a word, as the Yorks and Coburgs 
jiad judged France eighty years before, as Napo- 
leon had judged the insurrection of Spain; the 
efforts of folly and Jacobin boasting would be easily 
put down by organized force ; and a prolonged 
struggle was not possible. Nor had success ceased 
to attend the arms of Germany, though France was 
making a useless parade of war.^ The sorties of the 

1 The sentiments of Moltke as to the absurdity and hopeless- 
ness of the resistance of Paris and of France, and as to the real 
character of the national defence, will be found in letters to his 
brother Adolf, vol. ii. pp. 49-76, English translation. We can 
only quote a few passages: "La France, * qui est plus forte que 
jamais,' even under these circumstances, talks big as usual. Any 
army in the field has ceased to exist, but they still have J\l. 
Kochefort, ' prof esseur de barricades ' and 'la poitrine des patriotes 
invincibles.' ... I cherish a private hope that I may be shoot- 
ing hares at Creisau by the end of October. . . . France has no 
Linger an army, and yet we must wait till the Parisians, who are 

240 MOLTKE. 

Parisians had failed ; they had made no impression 
on the German hnes. The forts daily broke out in 
a cannonade ; but their volleys were almost a waste 
of powder. The situation outside the capital had 
even improved ; Laon, Toul and Soissons had 
opened their gates ; the railways of the provinces 
were being mastered ; and the communications of 
the invaders to the Rhine were being enlarged and 
opened. The great prize, too, of Strasbourg had 
been seized ; the Landwehr were joyfully flocking to 
the war, and the numbers of the armies in the field 
were kept up, nay increased. A 14th corps had 
been formed to besiege Belfort, and to overrun the 
eastern provinces ; and one incident was of the 
happiest omen. The young Army of the Loire had 
advanced to Artenay, as if to threaten the besiegers' 
lines around Paris, and it had been driven in rout 
beyond the river. 

The position of the Germans, nevertheless, was, 
even now, not without peril. The calculations of 
Moltke had proved to be mistaken ; and he was 
committed to an enterprise on which he had not 
reckoned. Paris was more powerful, and had 

rising in delirium, give np this hopeless resistance. ... It is 
frightful to see the havoc wrought by the mob in power, and 

laughable too The terrorists drag every man, up to the 

age of forty-six, from house and farm, from home and family, to 
follow the flag. . . . Only the Advocates' reign of terror can suc- 
ceed in getting such armies together, badly organized, without 
trains for supplies, and exposed to the inclemency of the weather 
. . . The terrorism of the Provisional Government has continued 
to work on all the good and bad qualities of the French nation. , ." 


ampler resources than be liad, at first, been led to 
suppose, and the city steadily defied the enemy. 
France had sprung to arms, to fight to the death ; 
a great national rising was gathering on all sides, 
and was harassing and weakening the German 
armies. The Army of the Loire had been defeated ; 
but in a few days it had renewed its strength, its 
numbers were before long doubled. The Army of 
the North had become menacing ; the Army of the 
East was so formidable that the enemy could hardly 
make head against it. The huge tumidtiiary levies 
were as yet feeble, but they were gradually ac- 
quiring discipline and power ; and the irregular 
bands that were seen flitting hither and thither, 
had become so annoying, and had done such havoc 
by cutting off small hostile bodies of men, and by 
injuring communications, and breaking up railways, 
that stern measures had been taken against them, 
and villages had been burned by way of reprisals. 
Thick clouds of war were slowly rolling up, and 
lowering upon the still exulting conquerors ; and 
the contest which had been one of armies, was 
becoming that of a race against its invaders. The 
German armies, too, were comparatively weak in 
most parts of the country overrun by them ; the 
sieges of Metz and Paris absorbed their forces ; and 
as long as these places continued to hold out, they 
were spread around, and confined to, two immense 
circles, and were most dangerously exposed to attack. 
The invaders, so to speak, were girt round by 
fires, which might kindle into a vast conflagration. 

242 MOLTKE. 

At this conjuncture, another immense disaster 
seemed to announce to France that she was to 
cease to hope. We turn to the operations of Bazaine 
at Metz, and to the results that flowed from his 
conduct. As we have seen/ he had informed 
Macmahon, if the language, it is fair to say, was 
ambiguous, that he hoped to be able to join hands 
with him, by a movement from the north, by 
Montmedy, and this had, in part, caused the march 
that had ended at Sedan. His despatches, however, 
it is only just to add, became day after day less 
hopeful ; ^ he spent the week after the great fight 
of Gravelotte, as we have said, in restoring his 
army, and in strengthening the fortifications of 
Metz ; and it is impossible to doubt that he was 
still clinging to the fortress, as he had clung from the 
first. It has been confidently alleged that, on the 
23rd of August, ^ a message came to him from 
Macmahon, informing him of the advance to the 
Meuse ; but the fact, if sustained by some evidence, 

1 Ante, p. 191. 

^ Riviere Report, pp. 57, G6. This report, and the proceedings, 
in " le Proces Bazaine," should he studied with attention, as regards 
the conduct of Bazaine after Gravelotte. Many of the charges, 
however, we repeat, are far-fetched and strained, and exhibit the 
had animus, and the too great ingenuity common iu prosecutions 
in France. The Marshal's apology, " Guerre de 1870," should be 
read ; hut it is a feeble book. An exhaustive review of the facts 
will be found in the Times of Gtli, 9th and 12th December, 1873. 

•' Riviere^ pp. 80, 87. There is much to be said for this view ; 
but an accused man should always have the beneiit ol' a doubt, 
and it is better to accept tlie German view, " Prussian 8tati" 
History," vol. ii. p. 490, that the message from Macmahon is not 
shown to have reached Bazaine. 


has been distinctly denied by Bazaine ; and though 
he still lingered inactive at Metz, he probably had 
no thought of betraying a colleague. On the 26th, 
however, he gave orders for a great demonstration 
against the enemy ; if we are to accept his state- 
ment,^ his purpose was to break out from Metz, 
and to endeavour to march northwards ; but if this 
was so, all that can be said is that his operations 
were as ill-conceived as possible.^ 

He made no attempt to surprise the Germans ; 
he did not throw bridges over the Moselle; the 
delays of the 14th and 15th were repeated ; and, in 
a word, the Marshal made no use of his central 
position, and interior lines, against the besiegers 
spread over a wide circumference, and weak in the 
extreme, on the eastern bank of the river. A 
singular incident now occurred. Bazaine convened 
a council of war, and asked his lieutenants their 
advice, and these unanimously recommended that 
the Army of the Rhine should not make an attempt 
to escape, but should remain in its positions round 
Metz. This conclusion, however, was founded on 
the assumption that there was not a sufficient 
supply of munitions,^ and the commandant ol:' 
Metz urged besides, that the forts were not in a 
state to resist an attack. The assumption, never- 
theless, was untrue, and untrue to the Marshal's 

' " Guerre de 1870," p. 163. Tlie Marshal's own language, how- 
ever, shows that he was hesitating. 

'" "Melz Canipagne et negociatiuns," pp. 129, 137. 

^ Rivcre, pp. 93, 97. Bazaine, '' Gueriede 1870," pp. liji, 1G7. 

It 2 

244 MOLTKE. 

knowledge. Bazaine had received au official report,^ 
tliat tlie store of munitions was abundant ; and tlie 
excuse as regards the forts was almost baseless, 
even if it could be deemed an excuse, which, in 
any case, it was certainly not. Bazaine evidently 
caught at opinions which fell in with his own ideas ; 
and it is a clear proof of this, that he suppressed 
the truth as to the fact on which the advice was 
founded, and did not inform the Council that there 
was no want of munitions. The order for an 
offensive movement was countermanded; and the 
French army remained in its camps, greatly to the 
indignation of officers and men, who described the 
26th of August as a second *' Day of Dupes." ^ 

Had Bazaine been a real commander, nay, had 
he had the heart of a true soldier, he would, after 
his first despatch to Macmahon, have left nothing 
undone to get away from Metz, and to effect his 
junction with the Army of Chalons. His word was 
pledged ; the issues at stake were immense ; and 
success, we have said, ought to have been probable.^ 
He was, however, a worthless and dull-minded man, 
without a clear conception of his plain duty ; but 
though lie was gravely to blame for still holding 
on to Metz, it is not likely that, on the 26th of 
August, he deliberately inteuded to do nothing from 
the first, to desert Macmahon, and to deceive his 
comrades, even if he was guilty of double dealing 

' Riviere, pp. 99, 100. " Proccs Bazaine," pp. 107, 112. 
^ Keferring to a memorable passage in the history of France. 
^ See ante, p. 177. 


iu accepting counsels given upon assumptions, 
which he knew were without genuine warrant. 
The next passage in his conduct was of a piece with 
the last, but it exposes him to more decided censure. 
On the 29th he certainly received a despatch, 
announcing that Macmahon was on the Meuse ; 
and he has maintained that he made a real effort, 
to leave Metz, and to join the Army of Chalons.^ 
He, no doubt, gave orders that the Army of the 
Rhine should advance to the north-eastern front of 
the place, and endeavour to force the German lines, 
where the table-land of St. Barbe rises from the 
hamlets of Failly, Servigny, and Noisseville ; and 
his intention, he has written, was to push on to 
Thionville, and from that point to draw near his 

His dispositions, however, were so bad, that it 
is not easy to suppose this was his settled purpose ; 
at best he was weak, remiss, and half-hearted. The 
movement began on the morning of the 31st ; at 
that moment, two whole French corps were con- 
fronted by a few thousand men only, near St. Barbe, 
on the eastern bank of the Moselle,^ and yet the 
Marshal did not direct an attack. The faults of the 
26th, too, were committed again, and aggravated 
in a deplorable manner.^ No effort was made to 
surprise the enemy ; the Moselle was so inadequately 

' " Guerre de 1870," p. 169. 
^ "Metz Campagne et negociations," p. 146. 
^ All this is very well pointed out in " Metz Campagne et 
negociations," pp. l^T, 148. 

246 MOLTKE. 

bridged, that the movement of the corps on the 
western bank, across the stream, was lamentably 
slow ; no feint was made to perplex the Germans, 
and nothing was done to turn the hostile positions ; 
the artillery reserves were not brought up ; the 
troops were crowded together, on a narrow front, 
in which their numbers were of little use ; and, 
worse than all, perhaps, it was late in the afternoon 
before an attempt to assail St. Barbe began. Yet, 
notwithstanding these grievous errors, the advantage 
of the Marshal's central position and interior lines 
became clearly apparent. Tlie French stormed 
Noisseville and two or three other villages ; and 
though the German leaders made the greatest ex- 
ertions to bring every available man to the spot, 
their troops were outnumbered,^ nearly three to 
one, at the decisive point, the uplands of St. Barbe. 
The artillery of the besiegers gave them, indeed, an 
advantage, and their lines had been already con- 
structed ; but, with this immense superiority of 
force, the Army of the Rhine, if even honestly led, 
ought to have been able to overcome all obstacles, 
and to make its way through the investing circle. 

Bazaine renewed the attack on the 1st of Sep- 
tember, but the effort was a demonstration onl}''; 
it is far from clear that it was not a pretence. By 
this time the Germans liad retaken one of the lost 
villages, and as Prince Frederick Charles and his 
lieutenants had toiled hard, through the night, to 
draw a powerful force to the positions menaced the 

' ''Prussian Staff History," vol. ii. p. 531. 


day before, tlie chnnces against tlioir enemy had 
been increased. The Germans fell on the French 
boldly, taking the initiative in the true spirit of 
war, and, at the first sign of a repulse of his right 
wing, the Marshal withdrew his whole army from 
the field, and was soon^ again under the forts of 
Metz. Still, even on this day, the French had a 
lai'ge preponderance of force on their side ; '^ the 
besiegers had not been able to array against their 
concentrated enemy an equal number of troops, so 
large was the circle they held ; and Bazaine might 
even yet have conquered had he been a straight- 
forward, and determined soldier. The battle of 
Noisseville, as it has been called, was discredit- 
able to him in the highest degree. His incapacity 
was made more than ever manifest, and perhaps 
more than incapacity may be laid to his charge. 
The occasion was one of supreme importance, and 
he should have made a strenuous, persistent, and 
continuous effort to get out of Metz and to join 
Macraahon. He assuredly did not do this ; if he 
had thought of breaking the German lines, he soon 
recurred to his old purpose, and slunk back 
ignobly to Metz ; and even if treachery was not in 
his heart, his conduct must be sternly condemned, 
as we look back at the events of these two days. 
The most conclusive proof, perhaps, that he was 
not in earnest, appears from the fact that in a 
struggle, in which he ought to have risked every- 
thing and fought to the last, he lost not much 

' "Prussian Staff History," vol. ii. p. 531. 

248 MOLTKE. 

more tlian 3000 men ; ^ and charity itself must 
admit that in his case, an impotent Priam wielded 
the spear of Hector. 

A few days after these demonstrations at Metz, 
Bazaine was apprised of the disaster of Sedan, of 
the captivity and fall of Napoleon III., and of the 
establishment of the Government of National 
Defence. The duty of the Marshal was now 
evident ; the Army of Chalons had disappeared ; 
he had not to try to extend a hand to Macmahon, 
and he was obviously bound to seek to break out 
from Metz, and to place the Army of the Rhine in 
the field. How to attempt, and perhaps to accom- 
plish this, was perceived by many able men in the 
camps of the French. Bazaine, as affairs stood, 
was not to look northwards, and to endeavour to 
escape in that direction, a dangerous and the most 
difficult course ; but he had still a chance, and a 
reasonable chance, of being able to get out to the 
south-east, along the great roads towards the Nied 
and the Sarre. The effort, no doubt, would be 
more arduous than it would have been a few days 
before ; the lines of investment had been com- 
pleted, and Prince Frederick Charles had at last 
strengthened the small foi'ce on the eastern bank 

1 French writers are naturally, and very properly, indignant 
at the conduct of Bazaine, on this and other occasions. The 
Germans, on the other hand, palliate his faults as much as they 
can, for, if not wilfully, he really played into their hands. 
Nevertheless, the Prussian Staff (" History," vol. ii. p. 534) is 
severe on the Marshal for his operations on the 31st of August 
and the 1st of September. 


of the Moselle, and had increased the risks of an 
attack from that side. Yet the experience of 
Noisseville had already proved, what indeed ouglit 
to have been plain beforehand, that it was possible 
to collect a great superiority of force against the 
Grernians at almost any point. At this very time, 
f lUI a fifth part of the besieging army was disabled 
by fever and other diseases ; and it was by no 
means impossible that a real chief would have 
succeeded in breaking out from the south-east of 
Metz.^ Success in this operation would have had 
effects as marked, and perhaps more decisive, than 
would have been the case had the movement been 
made on the 18tli of August, or a few days after- 
wards. Not only would the communications of 
the enemy with the Rhine have been seized, and 
the besiegers round Paris have been in peril, but 
the Army of the Rhine would have been set free 
to give the consistency and power to the pro- 
vincial levies of which they were in special need, 
and the war would have taken a different turn. 
Bazaine's duty, therefore, was to make the 

1 We haye already referred, ante pp. 177-8, to the opinion of 
General Hamley, and to the remarkable admission of the Prussian 
Stall', as to the probability of the French being able to escape 
from Metz, between the 17th of August and the 1st of September. 
For views, on the French side, on this all-important subject, 
see again ''Metz Compagne et negociations," pp. Ill, 112. A 
very few days could not have made a complete dill'erence in the 
military situation at Metz ; and to the last moment two generals, 
at least, of Bazaine's army believed it was possible to break out 
from the south-east. 

250 MOLTKE. 

attempt ; and even if it had failed, another course, 
beside inactivity at Metz, was open to him. Trained 
officers, he must have known well, were one of the 
chief requirements of the new improvised armies ; 
his army could provide an abundant supply of 
these, and he might have despatched parties of 
officers at night, from time to time, to give valuable 
aid to the forces being raised for the defence of 
France. Many of these officers would have, 
perhaps, been captured ; but hundreds would have 
probably got through the German lines, and this 
reinforcement would have been of the highest 
importance. It should be added that the Army of 
the Rhine was still capable of most vigorous 
effi)rts ; it was suffering less at the time than the 
German army, and it had not lost the confidence 
it had acquired at Gravelotte. 

Bazaine, however, had no notion of undertaking 
operations of this kind ; he believed that the end 
of the war was at hand ; he continued to recognize 
the fallen Empire as the only lawful Government 
of France; and on the 12th of. September he 
informed his lieutenants ^ '* that he would not run 
the risk of the fate of Macmahon, and that he 
would not make a great sortie from Metz." Dis- 
astrous and palpable as had been his faults, we 
may ascribe them, perhaps, up to this point of time 
to dulness, vacillation, and incapacity for command ; 

' " Metz et negociations," p. 205. Tliis conversation is not 
specially noticed in the prosecution of Bazaine, but it certainly 
took place. 


he had clung to Metz, all through, probably for his 
own safety, and not from a sinister motive to gain 
power for himself, or to abandon and betray ]\Iac- 
mahon, as has been alleged by partisan accusers. 
But thenceforward his conduct admits of no ex- 
cuse ; it became, in no doubtful sense, criminal. 
As his intention had been perhaps from the first, 
to remain with the Army of the Rhine at Metz, 
it was his bounden duty to do all that in him 
lay to store provisions for the support of the 
garrison, of the population, and of his own troops, 
and to husband them with the most scrupulous 
care, to enable him to liold out for as long a time 
as possible. This duty, however, he did not fulfil, 
not even after he had made it known that he would 
not try to break out from Metz ; he did not procure 
the supplies of food from the neighbouring villages, 
which he might have obtained ; he took no care to 
distribute these with a strict regard to the neces- 
sities of the place ; and this was an unpardonable 
offence. Not only were crops and cattle not brought 
in from the surrounding farms and hamlets, as 
might have been done, but the soldiery were 
allowed to consume everything they could buy; 
the people of Metz were not put on rations; and 
thousands of tons of corn were wasted in feedins* 
horses which had become useless, as it had been 
arranged that the army was not to move. Even 
on the wretched system of passive defence, adopted, 
in reality, from the first, the Marshal was guilty of 
the worst misconduct ; and the results were in the 

252 MOLTKE. 

highest degree calamitous. Had he made the best 
use of the resources of Metz, from the time when 
he first assumed the command/ the place which 
held out for nine weeks only, might have held out 
for nearly five months ; had he done this, even after 
the 1st September, it might have held out for more 
than three ; and this culpable negligence was, 
perhaps, fatal to France. 

This, however, was not the full measure of 
Bazaine's guilt; he became, virtually, if not of set 
purpose, a traitor. After Sedan, he issued a pro- 
clamation to his troops, insisting upon their duty 
to France,^ but containing ominous allusions to 
late events in Paris. The Glerman leaders probably 
caught at the hint; and towards the close of 
September,^ a spy of the name of Regnier was 
conveyed through the German lines into Metz, and 
began to sound the Marshal on conditions of peace. 
Bazaine, to do him justice, called in two of his 
lieutenants to hear what was said by the spy, who 
jDretended to be an envoy from the Empress; and, 
extraordinary as the fact may appear, Bourbaki, 
the chief of the Imperial Guard, left Metz to confer 

1 "Kiviere," p. 260. " Proces Bazaine," p. 113 seqq. An 
impartial observer will probably be of opinion that Bazaine's 
conduct, as regards supplies at Metz, was, by many degrees, the 
worst feature in his case. 

2 " Guerre de 1870," p. 178. 

^ That Regnier was a spy seems established by incontrovertible 
evidence, "Guerre de 1870," pp. 179, 185. A trick of the 
same kind was played by the Prussians at the siege of Mayence 
in 1793. See the " Life of Kleber," by Pajol, pp. 20, 21. 


with the late Regent. The Empress instantly dis- 
avowed Regnier ; but these crooked intrigues did 
not end with his mission. On the lOtli of October, 
when it had become evident that the fall of Metz 
could not be long delayed, Bazaine called another 
council of war ; and after the customary talk on 
occasions of the kind, of " the honour of arms, and 
holding out to the last," one of the Marshal's aide- 
de-camps was allowed to leave Metz, and to make 
proposals at the German headquarters at Versailles, 
" for honourable terms for the Army of the Rhine." 
The aide-de-camp arrived with a written note from 
Bazaine, apparently not made known to his col- 
leagues,^ which plainly stated that France could 
resist no longer ; that she was the prey of anarchy 
and revolution, and that the army could be made 
an instrument " to restore order and to protect 
society." Bismarck evidently perceived what this 
implied, and informed the aide-de-camp that all 
might be well,^ if the army at Metz would declare 
for the Empress; and that if Bazaine would secure 
its support for the Regent, a treaty of peace would 
probably follow. The aide-de-camp immediately 
returned to Metz. Another council of war was 
called, and it was agreed that the aide-de-camp 
should see the Empress, and try to obtain terms 
for the Army of the Rhine, all questions of State 
being left to the Empress alone. Throughout this 

1 "Guerre do 1870," p. 210. This letter of Bazainc's con- 
demns him, even under his own hand. 

2 " Guerre de 1870," p. 223. 

254 MOLTKE. 

whole time Bazaine had stood aloof from the 
de facto Government of National Defence ; he had 
scarcely any communication with it, though this 
was possible in different ways ; he did not make it 
aware of his dealings at Versailles ; and little doubt 
can exist that he would have at least tried to 
employ his army to restore the Empire, to put 
doAvn the men in power in Paris and at Tours, and 
to compel France to accept an ignominious peace. ^ 
The Empress, however, acting as she did, with a 
high and delicate sense of honour, in all that related 
to France and her fortunes, refused to have any- 
thing to do with negotiations of the kind, and gave 
Bazaine' s messenger only a few words of sympathy. 
The chief motive of Bazaine in these sorry 
intrigues was, possibly, the impulse of a desperate 
man, to save, by any means, himself and his army. 
He could hardly suppose that he would be master 
of the situation, after what had occurred at Metz ; 
that he could induce his troops to betray France, 
and to force upon her a disgraceful peace. Nor is 
it likely that Bismarck believed that negotiations 
would be successful ; he probably saw in them, in 
the main, a way to diminish the power of resistance 

1 The report of General Kiviere, and the statement of the 
prosecutor in the " Proccs Bazaine," set forth these intrigues and 
negotiations in detail with as adverse comments to Bazaine as 
possible. It is safe, as has been- done in this brief narrative, to 
rely mainly on the unfortunate INfarshal's own admissions and 
statements, and they are ample to convict him. The " Prussian 
Staff History " discr'eetly passes over this episode in the war, or 
touches it* very lightly. 


at Metz, and to injure the existing government of 
France. But be tliis as it may, the fault of Bazaine 
is manifest, and has rendered his name infamous. 
He doubtless had, to a certain extent, the counte- 
nance of his lieutenants at Metz; he did not positively 
declare that he would employ his army in order to 
set up the Empire again, to put down the existing 
regime in France, and to dictate terms to her at the 
bidding of Germany. But he had already wasted 
the resources at Metz with consequences of the 
worst kind ; and his evil dealings directly tended to 
increase this waste, to distract his officers, to perplex 
their men, to encourage negligence ; in a word, to 
paralyze and impair the defence. His conduct, 
too, proved that the leader, at least, of the only well- 
organized army of France was an enemy of her 
present rulers ; and this not only added to the 
power of the Germans, but weakened and em- 
barrassed Gambetta and Trochu, and made the 
strength of the nation for resistance less. Nor 
should we forget that if he had not the power he 
had the will to provoke civil war in France, in the 
face of her foes, in the heart of her provinces ; and 
he was ready to be the author of a shameful 18th 
Brumaire, which would have been her ruin and 
not her safety. Some of the charges against him 
are not true, others are exaggerated and over- 
strained ; but he was rightly condemned for his 
negligence at Metz, and for trafficking with the 
national invader in the field, and withholding the 
fact from the men actually iu power. When we 

256 MOLTKE. 

look back at his incapacity, liis guilt, and liis treason, 
and the terrible consequences of his misdeeds, we 
cannot feel surprised that he has been deemed the 
curse of France by the generation of Frenchmen 
that beheld the war. 

The intrigues with Versailles having come to 
nothing, or probably served the ends of the 
Germans, the fall of Metz was ere ]ong to follow. 
Bazaine had more than once spoken of attempts to 
break out, after his declaration of a few weeks 
before, but all that was done was to make a few 
weak demonstrations against the German lines to 
the north, the very direction that should not have 
been taken. Yet more than one of these efforts 
were, in part, successful, so decisive was the advan- 
tage of the positions of the French, a significant 
proof of what might have been the result had the 
Army of the Ehine had a real commander. After 
fruitless and timid councils of war, the Marshal 
accepted the terms of his conquerors, not improbably 
circumvented in the dishonourable game of double 
dealing he had badly played. 173,000 ' men, 
including the army, the garrison of Metz, a great 
body of irregular levies, and the sick and wounded 
who had borne arms, defiled, on the 29th of October, 
1870, under the eyes of the exulting Germans ; the 
great bulwark of Lorraine had fallen, and even the 
unexampled disaster of Sedan was surpassed by a 
more ignominious surrender. The attitude of the 

' For the real numbers of the French troops at Metz, see ante, 
note, p. 165. 


captive soldiery was, nevertheless, becoming ;^ they, 
at least, knew they had done their duty ; they 
had not been subdued in fair fight, but had been 
the martyrs of criminal misdeeds ; and, unlike the 
captives of Sedan, they maintained a haughty 
silence. Bazaine was of a piece with himself to the 
last ; his demeanour was one of stolid indifference ; 
he had even neglected to destroy the eagles which 
had flown at Borny, Mars La Tour, and Gravelotte, 
and which now hang their wings in many a town in 
Germany ; and he went on his way without a 
thought of the execrations of the townsmen of 
Metz denouncing him as a false-hearted traitor. It 
is characteristic of the want of insight and blunder- 
ing stupidity of the man, that he had the effrontery 
to compare the defence of Metz to Kleber's defence 
of Mayence and Massena's defence of Genoa, noble 
instances of skill and heroic endurance ; and, at 
his trial in 1873, he was so devoid of perception as 
to appeal to Prince Frederick Charles as a witness 
in his behalf, as though Napoleon had not warned 
French officers to beware of the interested praise of 
an enemy. ^ 

The surrender of Metz, long before the time when 
the place might be expected to fall, threw a pro- 

1 "Prussian Staff History," Part ii. vol. ii. p. 201. 

2 The capitulations of Sedan and Metz are events that ought 
never to have occurred, and reflect disgrace on the arms of France. 
It may be interesting to observe what great French commanders 
thought of disasters similar in kind, though very different in 
degree. Villars wrote thus of the surrender of the French right at 


258 MOLTKE. 

digious weight into the scale against France, and 
had an immense influence in deciding the war. It 
was an accident on which Moltke could not calcu- 
late; he was justified, we believe, in investing the 
fortress, even with a force scarcely larger than the 
besieged, after his experience of the incapacity of 
Bazaine; but he could not anticipate that the 
Marshal would squander his resources, and betray 
his trust. The result, in a great degree, rectified 
his mistake in hastily advancing on Paris ; but for 
this he had to thank Fortune, and not his own fore- 
thought. The Imperial armies of France had now 

Blenheim, " Memoirs," vol. ii. p. 330, the genuine Vogiie edition : 
"C'estdans ses occasions ouil faut repondre aux imbeciles, qui 
disent que pouvait on faire de mieux." 

" Qu'il mourust 
" Ou qu'un beau desespoir alors le secourust." 
"L'infanterie espagnole i\Rocroyn'aima-t-elle pas mieux perir que de 
demander quartier 1 Le soldat et I'offieier ne doit-il pas preferer une 
mort glorieuse, cherchant a se faire jour la bayonette au bout du fusil, 
a I'ignominie de perir de faim et de misere dans les prisons 1 Je 
suis honteux et penetre pour la nation d'une reddition aussi lasche." 
Napoleon has thus referred to the capitulation of Maxen in the Seven 
Years' War ; he was probably thinking of the capitulation of Dupont 
at Baylon. " Comment.," vol. vi. p. 402 ; — "Mais que doit done 
faire un general qui est cerne par des forces superieures ? Nous ne 
saurions faire d'autre reponse que cells du vieil Horace. Dans une 
situation extraordinaire, il faut ime resolution extraordinaire ; 
plus la resistance sera opiniatre, plus on aura de chances d'etre 
secouru ou depercer. Que de choses qui paraissent impossibles ont 
etc faites par des hommes resolus n'ayant plus d'autre ressource que 
la mort ! Plus vous ferez de resistance, plus vous tuerez de monde 
a I'ennemi, et moins il en aura, le jour meme ou le lendemain, 
pour se porter contre les autre corps de I'armee. Cette question ne 
nous parait pas susceptible d'une autre solution sans perdre I'esprit 
militaire d'une nation, et Texposer aux plus grands malheurs." 


wholly disappeared, and tlie annihilation of the 
Army of the Ehine, which had kept Prince Frederick 
Charles round Metz, let loose prematurely, and at 
an opportune moment, another host of invaders to 
subdue France. The results of the war had been 
astounding, surpassing' all that had been seen in 
history; and if not the idol he has been made by 
the courtiers of success, Moltke deserves high 
honour for what he had achieved. He had, doubt- 
less, missed opportunities and given chances ; ho 
had not shown the dexterity and the perfect skill 
of ISTapoleon in moving masses of men, in more than 
one conspicuous instance ; he had repeatedly failed 
to strike a defeated enemy, and his sudden march 
on Paris was to prove perilous. But he had carried 
out, most ably, a well conceived plan ; and some of 
his operations had been those of a daring and 
admirable master of war. Nevertheless, the extra- 
ordinary success of the Germans was not due in the 
main to Moltke' s faculties ; it should be ascribed, 
for the most part, to other causes. The superiority 
of their forces was so decisive in numbers, organiza- 
tion, and military worth, that it was difficult for the 
French to contend against them ; the unparalleled 
triumphs of Sedan and Metz are to be ascribed to 
Macmahon's weakness and levity, and to the 
vacillation and guilt of Bazaine. The paramount 
cause, however, of the disasters of France was the 
disregard of military for political objects ; this led 
to the first defeats on the frontier ; this prevented 

the retreat from the Sarre to Chalons ; this con- 

s 2 

260 MOLTKE. 

tributed to the ruinous marcli to tlie Meuse ; and 
this, too, prompted Bazaine to neglect his duty, and 
to dabble in the treason which ended in the fall of 
Metz many weeks before this should have been 
possible. Once more France seemed about to 
succumb, and the German leaders believed that all 
would soon be over. Yet Paris and France were 
again to deceive them, and to make efforts so 
intense and amazing that the contest was protracted 
for months, and its issue seemed almost to the last 
uncertain, so grave was the stress placed on the 


Advance of the First and Second Armies into France after the 
fall of Metz — The besiegers' lines around Paris strengthened 
and reinforced — Mistake of Moltke as to the position of affairs 
outside Paris — The external zone — The Army of the Loire 
restored and largely increased — The Battle of Coulmiers — 
Alarm at the German headquarters at Versailles — Moltke 
makes preparations to raise the siege — Accidents which 
prevented the Army of the Loire from gaining the full 
results of its victory — Disastrous effect of the fall of Metz on 
the military situation as regards France — D'Aurelle falls back 
on Orleans, and places the Army of the Loire within lines — 
Moltke again mistaken in the distribution of the German 
forces — The Grand Duke of Mecklenburg sent to the West — 
Prince Frederick Charles near Orleans — Immense increase 
of the Army of the Loire — Prince Frederick Charles directs 
a general concentration of his own and the Grand Duke's 
forces — Views of Chanzy — Fatal mistakes made by Gambetta 
— The Battle of Beaune la Eolande — Ill-directed advance of 
the Army of the Loire, in the hope of relieving Paris — It is 
defeated and driven back on Orleans — Great sortie from 
Paris combined with false attacks — The Battle of Villiers — 
The sortie ultimately fails — Reflections on these events, and 
on the situation. 

The fall of Metz concurred with the outbreak in 
Paris in putting an end to parleys, perhaps insincere, 
between Bismarck and the new French Government. 
The forces of the invaders had been almost doubled 
by the extinction of the Army of the Rhine, before 

262 MOLTKE. 

that event should have been possible ; and opinion 
in Europe again announced that France had no 
choice but to lay down her arms. Moltke steadily 
proceeded to turn to advantage the immense favour 
bestowed by Fortune, on which, we repeat, he could 
not have reckoned when he ventured to risk an 
advance on Paris, a fact to be kept in mind when we 
examine his strategy on established principles of 
the art of war. The First Army was withdrawn 
from the great stronghold of Lorraine, and while 
part of it was sent off to reduce the fortresses which 
still barred the Moselle and the Meuse — Mezieres, 
Montmedy, Thionville and Verdun — the other part 
w-as marched to the valley of the Oise, to strengthen 
the external zone of the forces besieging Paris. 
Verdun was mastered in a few days ; but the remain- 
ing places held out for a time, and some weeks 
passed before the invading host, retarded by bad 
weather and the bands of the rising, attained the 
verge of Picardy and the Isle of France. Of the 
Second Army, one corps ' was despatched to Paris, 
to take part in the work of the siege; and the 
remaining^ three corps were moved southwards, in 
order to put down the provincial levies gathering 
between Berri and Franche Comte, and especially to 
crush the French Army of the East,^ which, as we 
have seen, had become menacing. The troops, 

1 The 2nd corps. 2 The 9th, 3rd and 10th corps. 

3 "Prussian Staff History," Part ii. vol. ii. p. 225. The real 
strength of this army was long underrated at the German 


joyous at their release from Metz, though their 
ranks had been largely thinned by disease, moved 
steadily on a wide front, through the broad and 
vine-clad plains of Champagne, and they had soon 
reached the line of the Upper Seine and the Aube, 
approaching the great table-land of Langres. Their 
march, however, even in this open country, had been 
harassed in places by the swarms of free-shooters, 
which buzzed around them and occasionally stung. 
The resistance of France, at this juncture, how- 
ever, seemed chiefly confined to the great centre of 
Paris, and Moltke's main object was to secure his 
position around the beleaguered city. He still 
believed that its fall could not be distant ; but 
its defences, he knew, had been immensely 
strengthened; its defiant attitude had changed by 
degrees his sentiments of derisive contempt ; and he 
had resolved that assurance should be made doubly 
sure, in a contest on which he had risked every- 
thing. The work of fortifying and improving the 
zone of investment had gone on since the first 
moment ; by this time it had, perhaps, been made 
impassable by the Parisian levies ; and the idea of 
bombarding the capital had been entertained, 
though, owing to the absence of the huge siege train 
required, this could not be attempted for two or 
three months. The first care of Moltke was to add 
largely to the numbers of the besieging armies, 
originally, we have seen, comparatively small, but in- 
creasing since the beginning of the siege. The two 
corps, left at Sedan, had come up long before, as 

264 MOLTKE. 

we have liad occasion to point out;^ another, marched 
from Germany to the camps round Metz, had, after 
a halt of a few days only, been directed upon the 
French capital ; a tbird, we have said, was just 
arriving ; and the forces of the besiegers had, by 
degrees, been augmented by large bodies of 
Landwehr hastening eagerly to a war which had 
become national. The besieging armies, which in 
September were not more than 150,000 strong, ex- 
ceeded 250,000 by the second week of November; 
and a force of 40,000 or 50,000 men was joined to 
the masses already spread behind the lines drawn 
around Paris. By these means the investing circle 
was made much more able to resist attack ; and the 
gap at the west, though still weakly occupied, was 
closed by a choice veteran body, the Landwehr of 
the renowned Prussian Guard. 

The external zone beyond the besiegers' lines 
became the next object of Moltke's attention. This 
girdle, composed of many detachments, placed 
irregularly along an immense circumference, had 
been, we have said, from the first incomplete; but 
this weakness had not appeared dangerous, as long 
as France had remained prostrate. It had become 
necessary to add to its strength, as the national 
rising developed itself; and the bodies of troops, 
which had scoured the districts around Paris and 
put down resistance, especially of horsemen, had been 
increased. Considerable reinforcements were sent 

1 The 13th corps, composed of a regular and a Landwehr 


to these ; and if ominous sounds of incessant war 
gathered on every side round the German camps, 
Moltke thought the situation of affairs secure, for he 
still underrated the power of France, and was scep- 
tical as to her patriotic purpose. To the east the 
German communications were safe ; the 14th corps, 
led by "Werder, occupied Alsace ; the Second Army 
was on the verge of Franche Comte, and would 
overwhelm resistance along that frontier. There 
were assemblages of armed men in the northern 
provinces, and these had been called an Army of the 
North ; but the First Army would soon dispose of 
these, and in any case would keep them away from 
Paris. There seemed nothing to apprehend from 
the south ; the Army of the Loire had, we have 
said, been routed, and forced to seek refuge beyond 
the river, and the 1st Bavarian corps, which had 
won this victory, after having been detached from 
the siege of Paris, held Orleans and the whole 
adjoining region, with the roads and railways that 
led to the capital. The west and the north-west 
were the only points from which danger appeared 
possible : forces, large in numbers, at least, it was 
rumoured, were gathering together in the wide tracts 
extending between the Eure and the Mayenne, and 
obviously it was from this direction, the most 
remote from the main German armies, that an 
attempt to assail the besiegers of Paris and to fall 
on their rear might be deemed probable. Two con- 
siderable divisions were, therefore, placed in the 
fertile country around Chartres, in order at once 

266 MOLTKB. 

to oppose an enemy coming from the west and to 
cover tlie investing circle on this front ; and cavalry 
was sent in every direction to overrun the adjoining 
provinces, and to bring in to the besiegers supplies. 
The external zone was thus strengthened at one of 
its parts, but the Bavarians at Orleans were left 
without support, and almost isolated along the 

These dispositious appeared sufficient to render 
the besiegers of Paris secure, and to lead to the 
defeat of the provincial armies. They were 
founded, however, on false assumptions, and they 
were the prelude of a reverse for the arms of 
Germany, which might easily have ended in a grave 
disaster. Moltke, at his headquarters, which had 
been placed at Versailles, had been misinformed as 
to the true positions and numbers of the new 
French levies ; the insurrectionary bands, the hard- 

1 It is very difficult to estimate, even approximately, the 
strength of the German armies around Paris and in the adjoining 
districts at this period. The Army of the Meuse, when the siege 
beoan, consisted of the 4th and the 12th corps and of the Guards, 
the Third Army of the 5th and 6th corps, of the 2nd Bavarian 
corps, and of the Wiirtemberghers. To these should be added the 
11th and 1st Bavarian corps of the Third Army, marched from 
Sedan within a few days: the 13th Corps, composed of two 
divisions, and the 2nd corps of the Second Army moved, on 
different occasions, from Metz, and the Landwehr of the Guard, 
with other bodies of Landwehr. The " Prussian Staff History " 
passes lightly over these reinforcements, perhaps in order to conceal, 
as much as possible, the risk incurred in the great march on Paris. 
But they probably were more than 100,000 men, and as the 
besiegers were at first 150,000 strong, they must now, it is likely, 
have exceeded 250,000. 


ships of ■winter, and the obstacles of an enclosed 
country had made the exploring of the German 
cavalry much less perfect than it had previously 
been/ and he was mistaken as to the real situation 
of affairs. On strategic principles he had rightly 
judged that danger was most to be feared 
from the west and the north-west, but the French 
Army of the West was, as yet, a phantom, a mere 
collection of the rudest levies, and he had made no 
provision to meet an attack from the direction 
where it had become imminent. Gambetta had 
placed the Army of the Loire, after its late defeat, 
into the experienced hands of D'Aurelle, a distin- 
guished veteran ; and under the care of a chief 
endowed with the faculty of command and organizing 
power, the beaten force quickly acquired consistency, 
self-reliance, and real military worth. Meanwhile, 
the energy of the new rider of France, and the 
prodigious exertions of the French people, had 
succeeded in increasing the Array of the Loire to 
an extent not even suspected at Yersailles. A new 
corps, the 16th, had been formed, and this body, 
about 30,000 strong, and partly composed of good 
soldiers, w^as entrusted to Chanzy, a young general 
of brigade, who was to prove that France still 
had a great commander. The Germans were thus 
really menaced from the south, and the position of 

1 '' Prussian Staff History," Part ii. vol. i. pp. 264, 266, 283. 
"Even as late as the middle of November," it is acknowledged 
that " no success had attended the endeavours to gain a clear idea 
of the positions and intentions of the adversary." 

268 MOLTKE. 

the Bavarians, spread around Orleans and com- 
pletely exposed, invited attack. The main part of 
the Army of the Loire, originally called, we have 
said, the 15th corps, was moved from the camps 
where it had been reformed ; it crossed the Loire 
and joined the 16th, and towards the close of 
October a plan was combined for falling upon the 
Bavarians in force, and for retaking Orleans in the 
event of success. The movement was to be made 
by D'Aurelle and Chanzy, advancing along the 
northern bank of the river, with their united forces; 
and it was to be seconded by a part of the 15th 
corps, which was to descend the Loire from above 
Orleans, and to close on the rear of the enemy 
when assailed in front. 

This operation was ill-designed in one essential 
point, and was retarded by unfortunate delays ; but 
it was, nevertheless, to a large extent successful. 
By the 7th of November, D'Aurelle and Chanzy, 
having marched from the tract around Mer and 
Beaugency, had reached the forest of Marchenoir, 
not far from the plains to the east of Orleans, and 
a skirmish with a hostile detachment was fought. 
Tann, the Bavarian general, a skilful officer, had 
been already put on his guard owing to the time that 
had been lost by the French, and that had deprived 
them of the advantage of a surprise ; and having 
learned that the enemy was in force before him, 
and that a French division was approaching his 
rear, he evacuated Orleans with praiseworthy quick- 
ness, and drawing all his available troops together, 


made preparations to accept a defensive battle. 
He liad from 20,000 to 23,000 men in liand ; and 
lie chose a strong position, protected by a brook, and 
by villages and buildings hastily fortified, which 
extended from Baccon, an outpost on the left to 
Coulmiers, and St. Sigismund on the right, points 
in front of a wood not far from Orleans. He was 
attacked on the 9th by D'Aurelle and Chanzy, at 
the head of, perhaps,^ 50,000 men, and the young 
Army of the Loire, which had been supplied with 
artillery of a superior kind, gave proofs of real 
excellence on the field and gained a complete, if not 
a decisive, victory. The Bavarians were driven 
from Baccon and Coulmiers ; their line which, as if 
in contempt of their enemy, had been spread over 
too wide a distance, was broken through on their 
left and centre ; and it was a mistake only of a 
French cavalry chief that prevented their right from 
being defeated, and their whole army, perhaps, 

1 The account of the Battle of Coulmiers in the " Prussian StafI 
History," Part ii. vol. ii, 271-79, is not candid or accurate. It 
estimates the French at 70,000 men ; but this includes the isolated 
division of the 15th corps, which did not get near the field. By 
far the most complete and impartial account Avill be found in 
General Derrecagaix's work, vol. ii. 292, 322. Ho rightly says 
that the French were about 50,000 strong. 

2 M. de Freycinet, " La Guerre en Province," p. 98, gives us this 
extract from a letter written by a Bavarian officer taken prisoner 
at Coulmiers : " II n'y a plus d'armee de La Loire disait on, les 
forces de I'ennemi sonfc epuisees, et maintenant je trouve tout un 
corps bien organise avec une artillerie formidable, une cavalerie 
admirablement raonte, et une infanterie qui nous a prouve ce dont 
elle etait capable a la bataille de Coulmiers. " 

270 MOLTKE, 

from being cut off from its line of retreat, the main 
roads of Paris. Tann ably drew off his shattered 
forces, having lost more than 3000 ^ men, including 
prisoners taken at Orleans and on the field, and his 
escape must be pronounced fortunate. But if the 
French had unquestionably won the day, an unto- 
ward incident had occurred that deprived them of 
the best fruits of victory. The division which had 
descended the Loire, and was to have fallen upon 
the enemy's rear, had not been able to take part in 
the battle, another, among repeated instances, how 
hazardous it is to attempt to unite widely separated 
forces on a given field, though under peculiar con- 
ditions, as at Sadowa, this course may be justified, 
nay, may be the best.^ 

The Battle of Coulraiers, as it was called, would 
have ended in the annihilation of the 1st Bavarian 
corps, but for a tactical mistake on the field, and 
for the false strategy which kept a whole division 
from it. The consequences, however, were real and 
striking. The apparition of the Army of the Loire 
had surprised and discomfited the German leaders; 

5 "The Prussian Staff History," Part ii. vol. ii. 279, states that 
the loss of the Bavarians at Coulmiers was only " about 800 men." 
D'Aurelle and Chanzy mention that the prisoners alone were from 
2000 to 2500. Major Adams' " Great Campaigns," p. 582, puts 
the Bavarian loss at " 4000 men and two guns." It was certainly 
more than 3000. 

~ This is well pointed out by General Derrecagaix, " La Guerre 
Moderne," vol. ii. 315. His observations, however, are little more 
than a repetition of what Napoleon has over and over again laid 


the external zone that covered the besiegers' hnes 
had been broken by a victorious enemy, whose 
strength had not been even suspected; and the 
dangerous position of the German armies thrown 
around Paris, on a vast circumference, and liable to 
attack, had become manifest. Something like con- 
sternation prevailed at Versailles ; a message was 
despatched to Prince Frederick Charles to hasten 
by forced marches to the aid of Tann ; the two 
divisions near Chartres, which had been placed under 
the command of the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg, 
were ordered to hurry off in the same direction ; 
and amidst exclamations in the German camp that 
the siege was " a gigantic mistake," Moltke made 
preparations, it is all but certain/ to raise the siege 
and to abandon his lines, should the Army of the 
Loire appear near the city. This event probably 
would have occurred, had D'Aurelle overwhelmed 
his foe at Ooulmiers ; and even as affairs stood, it 

1 The evidence that Moltke intended to raise the siege of Paris 
at this conjuncture is very strong. The fact was asserted by 
several writers at the time, notably by the correspondent of The 
Times, " Campaign of 1870, 191 ;" and it has been repeated by 
Major Adams, " Great Campaigns," p. 583. It is remarkable, too, 
that a German journal, believed to have been under Moltke's in- 
fluence, referred, at this very time, to Napoleon's raising of the 
siege of Mantua in 1796, at the approach of Wiirmser; and the 
silence of the " Prussian Staff History " after these statements, is 
significant in the extreme. The only evidence the other way is a 
declaration by Moltke himself, "Precis of Franco-German War," 
vol. ii. 303, English translation, that it " never entered anybody's 
head to leave Versailles ; " but this distinctly refers to a sortie from 
Paris, and to a different occasion. 

272 MOLTKE. 

might, perhaps, have happened. Tann had fallen 
back on Artenay and Toury, covering the roads to 
Paris, after his defeat ; but bis troops had lost heart 
and had greatly suffered, and he could not have 
stopped the march of the Army of the Loire, now 
joined by its late absent division, flushed with 
victory, and nearly fourfold in numbers. The 
Bavarians, too, were without support; even the 
heads of one corps of Prince Frederick Charles were 
leagues distant on the 14th of November ; only a 
few troops of the Grand Duke had reached Tann 
on the 11th and 12th ; and had D'Aurelle, there- 
fore, pressed boldly forward, he might have beaten 
both his adversaries in detail, and gained a signal 
and most important triumph,' In that case he 
would doubtless have advanced on Paris, and 
Moltke, we believe, would have raised the siege. 

D'Aurelle, however, did not adopt the course, 
which, hazardous certainly as it would have been, 
might, as affairs were, have been, perhaps, the 
wisest. Had he routed Tann and the Grand Duke, 

^ This operation is indicated by Clianzy, one of the most truth- 
ful and modest of men : " La Deuxieme Armee de la Loire," p. 35 : 
" II eiit peutetre ete possible en mettant a profit I'enthousiasme 
produit par la victoire du 9, d'atteindre et d'achever de battre 
I'armee du General de Tann, avant qu'elle eut pu etre secourue 
par celle du grand due, sur laquelle on se serait porte ensuite, et de 
prendre ainsi les Allemands en detail." Major Adams, '' Great 
Campaigns," p. 581, though an ardent admirer of the Germans, 
says : " A little more judgment and decision on D'Aurelle's part 
would have involved Von der Tann in a signal disaster, and 
perhaps have seriously affected the German investment." 

CONDUCT OF d'aijbelle. 273 

he "would, in all probability, have pressed on to Paris, 
under the stress of opinion in his camp ; but he 
paused after Coulmiers, for two or three days, and 
he made no attempt to draw near the capital. With 
the possible exception of the chief of his staff,^ none 
of his lieutenants, not even the gifted Ohanzy, whose 
powers were already becoming manifest, proposed, 
it is just to say, a bold march northwards ; and it 
is impossible to deny that considerations of weight 
existed against an operation of the kind. Though 
the Second Army was still out of reach, the most 
advanced corps of Prince Frederick Charles was 
now only three or four marches distant, the two 
corps in the rear only seven or eight marches ; and 
obviously there would have been grave peril in 
moving on Paris, with a certain prospect of having 
to assail an enemy in front, while a second enemy 
was threatening the assailants in flank. D'Aurelle 
fell back on Orleans with the Army of the Loire ; 
the Bavarians and the Grand Duke gave him little 
alarm; but it was the approach of the Second Army 
endangering his right, which, he ^ tells us himself, 
was the principal cause that he did not endeavour 
to press forward, and that he made a retrograde 
movement. This proves, with a clearness not often 
observed, how fatal to the cause of France was the 
untimely and shameful surrender of Metz. Had 

1 M. cle Freycinet, " La Guerre en Province," p. 102. Tliis 
statement is flatly contradicted by D'Aurelle, p. 142. 

2 D'Aurelle, "■ La Premiere Armee de la Loire," p. 134. The 
passage is too long to be quoted, but deserves attention. 


274 MOLTKE. 

the fortress held out a few weeks longer, as, beyond 
question, ought to have been the case, Prince 
Frederick Charles would have been far away from 
the theatre of the war on the Loire ; and, in that 
event, Coulmiers might have changed the whole 
course of the struggle. But for the guilt and 
treason of Bazaine, the Army of the Loire, despite 
other mishaps, would very probably have reached 
Paris ; and if so, Moltke would have raised the siege, 
with results which must have powerfully made for 
France. " The capitulation came in the very nick 
of time," is an admission made by a German writer. 
Owing to a series of accidents, of which the most 
disastrous was the premature and unexpected fall 
of Metz, Coulmiers had not had the decisive 
results which probably might have flowed from it. 
It had shown, however, as if by a sudden flash 
of light, how, notwithstanding their prodigious 
success, the position of the Germans had become 
precarious, and how colossal were the efforts of 
France,^ and Moltke thenceforward had no illusions 

' The change in Moltke's views as to the war is most remark- 
able. We have seen what these Avere in September and October. 
He wrote in the following strain after Coulmiers, though he 
still held the false belief that Frenchmen were dragooned into the 
defence of their country ; *' Letters," vol. ii. p. 66, English 
translation : " After Sedan and Metz it may have seemed to 
you in Berlin that all was over ; but we have been having 
a very anxious time. The greater part of our forces are 
detained round Paris, and the obstinate endurance of Bazaine's 
army — though he is now proclaimed a traitor — hindered the 
earlier advance of fresh troops. . . . Surrounded as we are by 


as to the nature of the tremendous contest. 
Opinion, too, in Europe veered round once more ; ^ 
after having scoffed at the efforts of France, it 
began to speculate on her prospects of success, and 
it did not pronounce against her again, the scales 
of Fate were so long in suspense. It is no idle task, 
as has been suggested by more than one of the 
courtiers of Fortune, to conjecture what might have 
been the results, had the Army of the Loire, as 
might well have happened, compelled the abandon- 
ment of the siege of Paris. It is easy to say that 
Moltke would have crushed D'Aurelle and Chanzy 
with a single stroke, and would have drawn his 
lines round the capital again before Trochu and 
Ducrot would have known what had happened, and 
it is easy to say that the German armies would 
have suffered a tremendous disaster, assailed from 
within and without as they moved off from the city. 
The truth probably hes between either extreme. 

hostile bands of armed men, within the circle we have had to 
face desperate sorties, and treachery and surprises from without. 
Now when the whole French army has migrated, as prisoners to 
Germany, there are more men under arms in France than at the 
beginning of the war. Belgium, England and America supply 
them with weajjons in abundance, and if a million were brought 
in to-day, within a few days we should have a million more to 
deal with." 

1 Even a cursory reader of the Press of Europe, before and after 
Coulmiers, will be convinced of the truth of this sentence. 
The following telegram, from the Daily News Correspondent of 
Berlin, sent at the close of November, is very significant : "The 
war news from the front is confused and contradictory. Much 
uneasiness is felt here," 

T 2 

276 MOLTKE. 

Had the siege been raised, the leaders in Paris could 
not have failed to be informed of the fact ; in that 
case they would, almost certainly, have destroyed 
a large part of the besiegers' lines, and have brought 
in the immense supplies accumulated by the enemy 
for weeks ; Ducrot, there is every reason to suppose, 
would have conducted an army outside the capital, 
and in this state of affairs the resumption of the 
siege would have been difficult in the extreme, if 
not impossible. In that event a complete change 
would have passed over the scenes of the war, and 
France might have obtained an honourable peace. 
Military considerations, however, are not sufficient, 
as elements of a judgment on this subject ; higher 
considerations must be taken into account. Denain 
saved France from impending ruin, and sent her 
again on the path of victory ; Valmy rescued her 
from the yoke of the conqueror, and gave her her 
first triumph over old Europe, and such an event 
as the raising of the siege of Paris might have led 
to results not less wonderful. 

Having fallen back, we have said, on Orleans, 
D'Aurelle placed the Army of the Loire in a series 
of camps in front of the city. His purpose was to 
await the attack of the German armies in these 
positions, an event which he believed at hand, and 
should he succeed in beating the enemy, he thought 
that he would be able to advance on Paris, and 
effectually to assist the beleaguered capital. To 
strengthen his camps, a double set of lines was 
constructed round Orleans to the north ; heavy 


batteries were mounted with large ship guns, and 
thousands of peasants took part in the work ; and 
the defences, extending on a two-fold arc, the first 
along the edge of the Great Wood of Orleans, the 
second at some distance beyond, became formidable 
in a few days. D'Aurelle, in a word, sought to 
make a Torres Vedras near the Loire ; when the 
barrier had broken the power of the Germans, he 
would then, and only then, assume the offensive. 
He was confident that, under these conditions, his 
army'^ was equal to great achievements ; and' if this 
strategy of passive defence was probably not the 
very best, it is to be regretted, in the interests of 
France, that he was not permitted to carry it 
out. It deserves notice, however, that it was not 
approved by Chanzy, a chief of a much higher type, 
though he faithfully obeyed his superior's orders. 
Chanzy, for many reasons, wished that his corps 
should be moved at least to the line of the Conie, 
a small river still further to the north ; it was 
to hold a menacing attitude from this position, and 

^ D'Aurelle's estimate of the quality of the Army of the Loire 
was somewhat exaggerated ; but it was far nearer the truth than 
the accounts that represented it as an assemblage of rude levies : 
p. 278. " Le General D'Aurelle a toujours eu la ferme conviction, 
partagee par tons les officiers gcncraux sous ses ordres et par tons 
las gens du metier, que cette armee de la Loire, animce d'un 
ardent patriotisme, et d'un courage cprouve, pouvait, etant rc'unio 
culbuter I'armce prussienne." 

2 See this remarkable despatch of Chanzy: "La Deuxicme 
Armee de la Loire, p. 49. Every line written by this great general 
should be carefully studied. 

278 MOLTKE. 

to interpose between the enemy's forces, at this 
moment widely apart ; and had this advice been 
followed, the events of the next few weeks would 
have certainly taken a different turn. While 
D' Aurelle was thus fortifying his lines near Orleans, 
a new direction had been given to the German 
armies. Prince Frederick Charles, indeed, whose 
foremost troops had reached Fontainebleau by the 
14th of November, was ordered to advance and 
hold the country between Orleans and the main roads 
to Paris ; he was to close the external zone where 
it had been broken. But the Grand Duke, who had 
just joined Tann, a few days after D'Aurelle's 
success, was again moved away to the west ; his 
forces and those of Tann were united, and they 
were placed once more in the tract around Chartres, 
in order to cover the siege on this front, to collect 
supplies, and to resist the enemy. This eccentric 
movement was another mistake, due to a strange 
ignorance of the operations of the French.-^ Moltke 
had never ceased to believe in a French Army of the 
West, he had, as we have often seen before, lost 
contact with a not distant foe ; beset by hindrances 
still on the increase, he did not possess, in the 

1 This is admitted by the "Prussian Staff History," part ii. 
vol. i. pp. 283, 291. " All observations pointed to the impending 
attack of the enemy from the west. . . . The proceedings of the 
French Army of the Loire after the engagement at Coulmiers 
had led the German Head-quarters Staff to believe that that 
Army would unite with the troops assembled at Nogent Le 
Rotrou and behind the Eure, and after this junction press forward 
from the west towards Paris." 



highest degree, the extraordinary gift of Napoleon 
in divining the movements of an opponent, and, 
despite the telegraph and mechanism of the kind, 
he had come to a conclusion, absolutely wrong, that 
the Army of the Loire had broken up from Orleans, 
and had come into line with the Army of the West, 
and that both were advancing upon the capital. 
The G-rand Duke and Tann were, therefore, sent 
in a direction completely away from the enemy ; 
there was nothing like a real Army of the West ; 
D'Aurelle was in his camp at Orleans, and this 
movement of Moltke was altogether false. The 
error was discovered ere long, and the Grand Duke 
and Tann had soon spread their troops over the rich 
tract between the Eure and the Sarthe, levying con- 
tributions, and waging, with increasing fierceness, 
the war of reprisals already begun. But a wide 
gap existed between their forces and those of Prince 
Frederick Charles, and, as affairs stood, this was 
even now perilous. 

The Second Army, meanwhile, had reached its 
positions, between Orleans and the chief ways of 
Paris; by the 21st of November it stood on a line 
from Angerville to Pithiviers, and, on the east, to 
Montargis. Its three corps, wasted by sickness 
and hardship, did not probably exceed 60,000 
men,^ and Prince Frederick Charles had little 
doubt of the coming fate of the untrained Army 

1 According to the "Prussian Staif History," Partii. vol. i. 313, 
the infantry of the Second Army did not, at this time^ exceed 
45,000 men. 

280 MOLTT^E. 

of the Loire. He contemplated an immediate 
advance on Orleans, with the victors of Mars La 
Tour and Gravelotte, and reserving this exploit 
for himself, he sent the Grand Duke, who had 
become his subordinate, still further west, to 
descend from Le Mans, on Tours, the seat of the 
Kepublican Government, despised and detested 
in the Prussian camps. But, in the meantime, 
Gambetta had made preparations for a new and 
mighty effort.^ With wonderful energy and 
administrative power, he had formed a 17th 
corps on the Loire, near Blois, and an 18th 
far higher up, at Nevers ; he had, with admirable 
secrecy and skill, moved a 20th corps from the 
Army of the East; these arrays had been drawn, 
by degrees, towards the Army of the Loire, and 
the uniting masses,^ from 150,000 to 200,000 
strong, were being combined on a front extending 
from the eastern verge of the Great Wood of 
Orleans to the Forest of Marchenoir on the west. 
A concentrated force, largely superior in numbers 
at least, was being thus opposed to a widely 
scattered force, and though the new levies were 
by tio means equal in quality to the troops of 
D'Aurelle, still the Army of the Loire, thus 

^ Even the Prussian Staff cannot witliliold its admiration of 
the "'surprising activity " of the French, and the "indomitable 
will" of Gambetta. 

2 These numbers cannot be even nearly ascertained. M. de 
Freycinet speaks of 250,000 men, the Prussian Staff of 200,000. 
D'Aurelle acknovpledges "145,000 effectives" only. 


immensely increased, was, in its present position, 
a grave danger to tlie separated and disseminated 
German armies, nay, even to the besiegers of 
Paris. About the 24th of November, Prince 
Frederick Charles became aware, for the first 
time, of a situation before unknown, and unsus- 
pected once more at Versailles ; he drew his three 
corps more closely together, and he directed the 
Grand Duke to hasten to bis aid, sending cavalry 
westward to join his colleague. The Grand Duke, 
however, who had been moving in many columns, 
in all directions, from near Le Mans to Nogent le 
Rotrou, and Vendome, and who had been ordered 
\)j Moltke to advance on Beaugency, required 
time to collect his forces ; and he was not on the 
Loir — an affluent of the much greater Loire — 
on a line between Bonneval and Chateaudun, 
until the 27th and 28th of November, at a consider- 
able distance still from the Second Army. 

The position of the armies around Orleans was 
now one of peculiar interest. On the 28th of Novem- 
ber, the Second Army, which had been gathering 
together for some days, was on a front extending 
about forty miles from Beaune La Eolande on the 
east, to Orgeres westwards, covering the avenues 
to Paris from the Great Wood of Orleans. But 
the Grand Duke, though a thin line of horsemen, 
brought him in contact with Prince Frederick 
Charles, was still only just moving from the Loir 
— if, indeed, he was in motion at all — there was still 
a gap between his force and his colleague, a gap, 

282 MOLTKE. 

too, by no means easy to close, and one -which, 
had Ohanzy held the Conie, as he had recom- 
mended, could not have been closed without 
running the risk of a most hazardous battle. On 
the side of the French, the 18th and the 20th 
corps, the right wing of the Army of the Loire, 
held positions around Maizieres and Boiscommon, 
nob far from the German left at Beaune La 
Rolande ; the centre composed of the 15th corps, 
lay between Chevilly and Chilleurs sur Bois, at 
the edge of the Great Wood of Orleans ; Chanzy 
and the 16th corps were about Peravy, in communica- 
tion with D'Aurelle and the 15th; and the 17th corps, 
the extreme French left, which had been threaten- 
ing the Grand Duke, was closing in from Marche- 
noir towards Chanzy. The whole Army of the Loire 
was thus concentrated on a front much shorter 
than that of the Germans ; its columns were near 
each other at all points, and it was assembled in 
camps behind formidable lines, which alone gave it 
a great advantage. Strategically its position was, 
beyond comparison, superior to that of its divided 
foes; for the defensive it was admirably placed, it 
might even hope to take the offensive, to defeat the 
enemy in its front and to reach Paris, and this 
had been due, in the main, to Gambetta, who had 
drawn together this immense array of forces, and 
had concealed the operation from Moltke at 

The military situation, so in favour of France, 
was suddenly changed by a disastrous incident. 


Gambetta was a greater man than Danton, but 
he had the temper of an imperious Dictator, and 
he had too much in common, in the conduct of 
war, with the delegates of the Convention who, 
in 1793-4, imposed their rule on reluctant generals. 
He had been in communication with Trochu and 
Ducrot ; he was feverishly impatient to relieve Paris, 
and he had already urged D'Aurelle to advance 
northwards, to try to reach Pithiviers, and to march 
on the capital. D'Aurelle had succeeded in putting 
a stop to an enterprise he deemed too hazardous, 
though in order to please the discontented minister 
he had sent part of the 15th corps to Chilleurs sur 
Bois ; but in a few days Gambetta resolved to 
attempt an operation on which he had set his heart. 
His eagerness to go to the assistance of Paris was 
quickened by a desire to protect Tours, threatened, 
we have seen, by the Grand Duke's forces, and he 
took on himself to order a movement, which, he was 
convinced, would at least promote his objects. He 
peremptorily directed the 18th and 20th corps, the 
right wing of D'Aurelle's army, to push forward to 
Beaune La Rolande, and to fall on the 10th German 
corps, the extreme left of the Second Army ; he 
hoped thus to gain a position from which to march 
on Paris, and also to compel the Grand Duke to 
. draw off from Tours. The movement, if undertaken 
at all, ought obviously to have been made by the 
whole French army, especially as Chanzy, at this 
moment, had still a chance of thrusting himself 
in between the Grand Duke and Prince Frederick 

284 MOLTKE. 

Charles, but, attempted as it was, it naturally failed, 
and the blame for the failure must fall on Gambetta. 
On the 28th of November, the 18th and 20th corps 
attacked the 10th at Beaune La Rolande ; the French 
stormed some petty villages, but the Germans had 
entrenched themselves in fortified posts. Although 
greatly inferior in numbers, they steadily maintained 
their ground for hours, and the arrival of a division 
of the 3rd corps at last turned the scale in their 
favour. The battle was in no sense decisive, but a 
premature and ill-conceived effort had shattered the 
right wing of the Army of the Loire, and the Ger- 
man leaders had been thoroughly aroused.^ 

The Grand Duke was now approaching the 
Second Army, being concentrated in front of the 
Great Wood of Orleans. Clianzy ^ beheld, with an 
anguish he could not suppress, his enemy defiling 
within striking distance, and exposing his flank to 
a formidable attack, and an opportunity was lost 
to the French. The position, however, of the Army 
of the Loire, though the 15th corps was somewhat 
too divided, and the 18th and 20th had suffered 
much, was, nevertheless, excellent for the defensive ; 
the Grand Duke and Prince Frederick Charles had 
probably not 100,000 men, and they could hardly 

1 The ^' Prussian Staff History," part ii. vol. i. 291, 321, gives 
an inadequate account of this whole series of operations. They 
should be carefully studied in D'Aurelle and M. de Freycinet's 
volumes. The Prussian Staff states that the three brigades of the 
10th corps engaged at Beaune La Rolande were only 11,000 strong. 
If so, they must have been terribly reduced by disease and other 

2 "La Deuxieme Armee de La Loire," p. 56. 


have defeated a much more numerous force strongly 
entrenched behind well fortified lines. At this 
crisis the fair hopes of France were injured by Gam- 
betta for the second time. With powers of organi- 
zation of the highest order, he had not the sagacity 
and calm judgment which have enabled some great 
men, though in civil life, to indicate generally what 
ought to be done in war, and his impatience had 
now overpassed all restraints. He had been 
informed by a balloon, which had dropped in 
Norway, and had therefore sent the intelligence 
late, that Ducrot was about to attempt to break 
out from Paris, and, on the 30th of November, he 
insisted through M. de Freycinet, his subordinate, 
at a council of war, convened for the purpose, 
that the Army of the Loire must march on 
Pithiviers, attack the enemy, and try to reach the 
capital. The operation was to begin next day, and 
D'Aurelle and Chanzy protested in vain against a 
movement which each declared would be fatal. 
The orders of the young Dictator, however, were 
final, and the two chiefs thought they were bound 
to obey.^ 

The movement began on the 1st of December ; it 
was inevitably ill-combined and precipitate. Chanzy 
and the 16th corps, with the 17th in the rear, ad- 
vanced from the left against the Grand Duke ; the 
15th corps, the French centre, scarcely stirred, for it 

' This obedience, however, to the ruler de facto of France, prac- 
tically on the spot, was very different from Macmahon's weak 
compliance before Sedan. 

286 MOLTKE. 

was the pivot on which the army would turn in 
making to the north-east for Pithiviers, and the 
French right, the 18th and 20th corps, was left in- 
active, and, as it were, out of sight, owing, it is to be 
feared,to a dispute between D'Aurelle and Gambetta. 
Not one half, therefore, of the Army of the Loire was 
employed in an effort against an enemy completely 
united by this time, and disaster could be the 
only result. On the 1st Chanzy attacked the 
Grand Duke, and gained at Villepion promising 
success, but when he attempted on the following 
day to assail his adversary, who had fallen back on 
Loigny, and placed his troops in very strong posi- 
tion, the event was altogether different. He ably 
directed, indeed, a hard fought battle, and the losses 
of the Germans, who in numbers seem to have been 
nearly equal to the French, at least, in the first part 
of the day, scarcely fell short of his loss on the 
field, a clear indication of the skill in tactics, for 
which he was to become conspicuous. But his 
young troops were no match for their veteran foes, 
standing on the defensive, in fortified posts, a 
panic fell on his right wing, and he was only extri- 
cated from defeat at hand, by a part of the 15th 
corps hastening to his aid. 

This reverse checked the advance of the Army of 
the Loire, engaged prematurely, and nearly half 
paralyzed. The operations of Moltke, up to this 
time, had been marked by ignorance of the facts, 
and had been, in a great degree, mistaken. He had 
wrongly sent the Grand Duke to the west ; he had 


really been surprised by the enormous addition 
made by Gambetta to the Army of the Loire. It 
was by accident only that the Grand Duke and 
Prince Frederick Charles had effected their junction ; 
and had the forces of the French been well directed 
he might have seen another defeat of the arms of 
Germany, and perhaps been compelled to raise the 
siege of Paris. He was now, however, to have his 
revenge, and his decision was formed with charac- 
teristic energy. When informed by the telegraph of 
the check of Chanzy,^ he ordered Prince Frederick 
Charles instantly to attack, and his orders were 
carried out with decisive results, largely owing to 
disastrous mistakes of the French. The Prince, 
leaving the 18th and 20th corps, which had remained 
motionless during all this time, and, quickly drawing 
his forces together, swooped in irresistible might on 
D'Aurelle's centre, the 15th corps, already divided 
and the success of the German onset was complete. 
The French, indeed, gave proof of heroic courage; 
they fought stubbornly for nearly two days, and 
retreated at first in excellent order, but they were out- 
numbered at the decisive point. The young soldiers 
of the 15thcorpscould not endure the incessant strain, 
and gradually the French centre gave way and was 
broken. The double line of entrenchments was 
earned,^ and the Germans ere long had entered 

1 " Prussian Staff History," part ii. vol. i. p. 344. 

~ The bravery displayed by the French in this retreat is attested 
by many eye-witnesses. All Frenchmen had joined to defend 
their country. The Frince de Joinville had come from exile, and 

288 MOLTKE. 

Orleans again, in the flusli of hard bought but un- 
doubted victory. Yet D'Aurelle conducted the 
retreat ably; Chanzy fell off to the left with the 
16th and 17th corps, and Bourbaki, who had not 
returned to Metz after his mission to the Empress, 
referred to before, drew off the 18th and 20th corps 
on the right, having been made their chief at the 
last moment. 

Superficial writers, following the worshippers of 
success, have interpreted these operations, from 
first to last, as the necessary result of a conflict 
between trained and regular troops and rude levies. 
This, nevertheless, is a complete mistake, though it 
is not pretended that the Army of the Loire could 
be compared, as an instrument of war, to the armies 
of the Grand Duke and Prince Frederick Charles. 
But it was in no sense a force to be despised ; it 
was greatly superior to its foes in numbers, and its 
disastrous defeat is to be mainly ascribed to faulty 
direction, ill-starred and manifest. It had a distinct 
advantage on the field of manoeuvre, owing to the 
separation of the enemies in its front, until Gambetta 
recklessly interfered; and had Chanzy been at this 
moment its chief he might perhaps have beaten the 
Grand Duke and led his victorious troops to the 
capital. Even after the battle of Beaune La 
Rolande the French around Orleans were pro- 
bably safe ; and it was the fatal movement which 
Gambetta commanded that almost inevitably proved 

was in the lines of Orleans ; Charette, a descendant of the hero of 
La Vendee, fell on this occasion. 


ruinous. That operation itself would not have been 
so calamitous as it soon became, had not the French 
right wing been left wholly useless ; this really was 
the principal cause that Prince Frederick Charles 
was enabled to attack the centre of D'Aurelle in 
overwhelming force, to break it, and to gain a 
decisive triumph. This series of reverses was chiefly 
due to presumptuous interference with the French 
chiefs, leading to a number of disastrous errors ; 
and it may safely be asserted that it would not have 
occurred had Chanzy had the supreme command, or 
had D'Aurelle been allowed to carry out his pro- 
jects. As for the operations of the Germans, they 
were marred by misconceptions of many kinds, but, 
when made thoroughly aware of the facts, Moltke 
sent his thrust home with remarkable skill, and was 
admirably seconded by Prince Frederick Charles.^ 

We pass from the banks of the Loire to the Seine, 
where Paris remained erect and defiant. The belli- 
gerents had gone on, since October, in strengthening 
the investing and defensive zones, spread in a double 
circle round the beleaguered capital. The besiegers, 
we have seen, had been largely reinforced ; the gap 
on the western front had been filled, and the lines 
drawn to repel attacks from the city had been made 
more than ever impassable. The besieged, how- 

1 The real causes of the defeats of the French before Orleans 
are set forth by the Correspondent of the Times, *' Campaic^n uf 
1870-1," pp. 201-9. Major Adams, "Great Campaigns," pp. 586, 7, 
has evidently had this book in view, in his comments, but he does 
not refer to it ; he merely says it was the work " of an excellent 


290 MOLTKE. 

ever, had been not less active ; they had slightly 
enlarged the positions they held behind the forts ; 
they had multiplied batteries and entrenchments, so 
that the enceinte was completely shielded ; and they 
had placed gunboats on the Seine, and long lines of 
waggons, armed with cannon and clad with iron, 
which formed movable points for attack and defence. 
Meantime extraordinary progress was made in the 
formation and training of the Parisian levies. The 
National Guards were now a huge army in them- 
selves, and, though partly composed of bad elements, 
especially in their elected officers, they were, never- 
theless, animated by patriotic fervour, and were 
amply sufficient to defend the walls, and even to 
furnish a contingent for sterner duties. The assem- 
blages of regular troops, of Gardes Mobiles, of 
veterans, and of choice volunteers, which had been 
acquiring military power by degrees, had long 
ceased to be an armed multitude ; they had become 
two armies in a real sense, of course far from equal 
to the Germans in their front, but capable of daring 
and persistent efforts. These armies were now 
170,000 strong; one, called the Second Army, 
under the command of Ducrot ; the other, the 
Third, under that of Vinoy. The incessant exer- 
tioDS of the citizens had supplied their needs in 
horses and other material, and, recollecting the 
situation, the results were wonderful. In addition 
to the garrisons of the forts, composed largely of 
marines and sailors, the National Guards were more 
than 200,000 men, and had as their leader Clement 


Thomas, one of the victims of the Communist 
Reign of Terror. 

During these weeks Ducrot had matured the 
project for endeavouring to break out from Paris, 
to which we have ah'eady referred. The first 
peninsula made by the bends of the Seine had 
been covered with strongly armed works, of the 
nature of solid counter approaches, and, protected 
by the batteries of Valerien, had become an en- 
trenched camp of prodigious strength. Ducrot had 
everything prepared for a determined effort to force 
his way, to the west, through the German lines 
established around the second peninsula, and then 
to make northwards for Rouen and the sea ; and, if 
the operation was to succeed at all, this probably 
was the best course to adopt. But Moltke had by 
this time closed the aperture on the western front, 
and, though this was still the most assailable point, 
Ducrot had gradually abandoned the hope of being 
able — as he had intended — to carry out a really 
large army with him. He had become convinced 
that he could not expect to break through the in- 
vesting circle with more than 50,000 or 60,000 men, 
assembled rapidly for a sudden attack, and this 
force would not, in itself, suffice to hold the field or 
to relieve Paris. He looked, therefore, to the pro- 
vincial armies, and he earnestly demanded that the 
Army of the Loire should, after Coulmiers, march 
swiftly westwards, and, co-operating with the levies 
of the north, should ascend to the line of the Eure 

and the Seine, and join hands with tlic force led out 

u 2 

292 MOLTKE. 

from the capital. This plan, he has maintained, 
could have been carried out ; and if so, this proves 
that, if mistaken in fact, Moltke was in theory 
right in his belief, that the best chance for the 
relief of Paris was by armies uniting from the 
west; and, doubtless, it was on this assumption 
that he persisted in keeping the Grand Duke near 
Chartres, false as the course was, in the actual state 
of affairs. 

Ducrot had convinced Trochu of the merits of 
his plan, and had received valuable assistance from 
him. The resources of Paris had, in fact, been 
employed for some time in making arrangements for 
the great sortie from the western front, and for a 
march to the course of the Oise, when the intelli- 
gence of Coulmiers interfered with what was 
probably Trochu' s unsettled purpose. Opinion in 
the capital turned to a project of breaking out to the 
south or the south-east, and joining hands with the 
Army of the Loire, supposed to be on the way from 
Orleans, and Trochu, who had always believed that 
the siege of Paris could only be raised by the arrival 
on the spot of an army of relief, began to yield to 
the popular demand. Gambetta^ seems to have 
taken no part in the decision ultimately formed in 
the city, but messages passed between him and 

1 Gambetta had much to answer for, and not unreasonably was 
severely condemned by several French generals for his pre- 
sumptuous dictation. Eut a remarkable letter from his pen, cited 
by General Ducrot, '^ La Defense de Paris," vol. ii. p. 117, certainly 
tends to show that he did not mar Ducrot's plan, but rather 
approved of it. 


Trocliu, and it was finally agreed that tbc project 
of Ducrot should, in existing circumstances, be 
given up, that the besiegers' lines were not to be 
assailed from the west, and that the Army of the 
Loire was not to march in that direction to the aid 
of the city. The sortie was to be made, therefore, 
from the south or the south-east, and to be 
supported by D'Aurelle pressing forward from the 
Loire ; and this had been the cause of the disastrous 
movements, due to Gambetta's most unwise med- 
dling, which had led to the defeats of the French 
before Orleans. Ducrot was enjoined to carry out 
the new arrangement in direct opposition to his 
hopes and views, and he proceeded to the task with 
a heavy heart. His first intention was to endeavour 
to break out from the southern front, in order to 
join the Army of the Loire as quickly as possible ; 
but the great strength of the besiegers' lines pro- 
tecting the German communications with Versailles, 
compelled him to abandon this plan, and at the 
suggestion of a young ofiBcer,^ now the rising hope 
of the Army of France, he resolved to make the 
attempt from the east. This, next to the west, 
was the best direction, as afi'airs stood, at the 
present moment. The defensive zone bristled here 
with whole tiers of batteries, the windings of the 
Marne afforded protection to an advancing army on 
both flanks ; if once the besiegers' lines were forced 
the country beyond was easy to traverse, and the 
enemy on the spot was not in great numbers. But 
' General Miribel, 

294 MOLTKE. 

precious time was inevitably lost in changing the 
dispositions for the sortie, and in massing troops 
and the material required from one side of Paris to 
the other, and this was probably turned to account 
by the German commanders. 

On the 28th of November, at night, the forts and 
their supporting defences burst out in thunder, to 
cover the first great effort of Paris to break forth 
from her chains. By this time the army of Ducrot 
had been assembled around Vincennes, and the 
troops, fired with enthusiastic ardour, eagerly waited 
for the dawn to obtain the means of passing the 
course of the Marne hard by. A sudden rise, 
however, in the waters of the stream prevented the 
necessary bridges being laid ; the effort was put off 
for a whole day, and this gave the Germans an 
immense advantage, for it enabled them to collect 
large masses of troops for the defence of the point 
that was being menaced, and it deprived the French 
of all they could gain by a surprise, and from a 
central position and interior lines. Demonstrations, 
nevertheless, were made on the 29th at parts of the 
investing circle, but these false attacks were with- 
out result, except that the upland of Avron, an 
important point, commanding a section of the 
German lines on the JVIarne, was captured and 
occupied by French batteries. On the 30th the 
effort was made at last, and the Marne having 
been rapidly bridged, Ducrot's men advanced 
against the Wurtembergers, and two bodies of the 
Faxons, entrenched in his front, between Noisy Le 


Grand and Cocuilly, their centre holding the hamlet 
of Villiers, the key of a position of prodigious 
strength. The onset of the French, covered by a 
terrific fire from the forts and batteries aloog the 
river, was attended at first with marked success ; 
the villages of Champigny and Bry were stormed, 
but when the assailants reached the main German 
lines, they were arrested by the defences of Villiers, 
a mass of walls and buildings almost impregnable. 
The battle raged confusedly for some hours, Ducrot 
awaiting the support of his left wing, which had 
been directed to turn the position of Villiers — the 
guns from Avron were here to take part — persisted 
in continuing the onset in front, and his troops were 
mown down in heaps by the fire from an enemy 
who suffered comparatively little behind his en- 
trenchments. The long-hoped-for reinforcement 
appeared at last, but the general in command, by a 
fatal mistake, attacked Villiers, in turn, in front, 
and the effort, after a protracted struggle, which 
cost an immense waste of life, was fruitless. Mean- 
while an attack on Coeuilly, on the French right, 
had been at last repulsed, and the line of the 
Germans, though severely tried, had proved sufficient 
to keep back the enemy. Ducrot fell back, at night- 
fall, on Champigny and Bry, still hoping to renew 
the fight on the morrow. 

While this battle had been raging along the 
eastern front, a part of Ducrot' s forces had been 
engaged in making a demonstration on Montmesly, 
in order to keep the enemy in check to the south-east, 

296 MOLTKE. 

and Vinoy had employed the Third French Army in 
different attacks on Choisy Le Roi to the south, 
and on Epinay, to the north of the investing circle. 
These efforts, made under the continuous fire of the 
forts and batteries, and of the gunboats on the 
Seine, -were attended here and there with partial 
success ; they relieved the pressure on the Second 
French Army, and prevented reinforcements being 
sent to VilHers. But if the battle of the 30th was 
indecisive, this was equivalent to a defeat for the 
French ; the zone of the besiegers had not been 
forced, and the gain of Champigny and Bry was 
worthless. Characteristically true to his favourite 
method,^ Moltke resolved to assume the offensive 
again ; parts of the 2nd and the 6th corps were 
marched to the aid of the defenders of Villiers ; 
Fransecky, a hero of Sadowa, was placed at their 
head, and at the dawn of the day of the 2nd 
December, the Germans pressed forward to storm 
Champigny. The French, who, without any means 
for encampment, had cruelly suffered from cold and 
privations, were driven at first out of part of the 
village, surprised, as had so often happened ; but 
Ducrot had strongly entrenched his position, and 
Champigny was regained after a protracted conflict. 
Nearly the same results were witnessed at Bry; 

1 " Prussian Staff History," part ii. vol. i. p. 381. This account of 
the "Teat sortie, and of the battles of the bOth November and the 
2nd December, is jejune and inadequate. General Ducrot's account, 
" La Defense de Paris," vol. ii. p. 80, 289, iii. p. 103, is more com- 
plete and impartial. General Yinoy's book too should be read. 


and wherever the defensive zone was approached, 
the power of its fire overcame everything, and the 
Germans were forced back defeated and baffled. 
The struggle of the 2nd was again indecisive, but 
it was not the less a reverse for Ducrot ; the lines 
of the besiegers had proved impregnable, and he had 
no choice but to recross theMarne, and to fall back 
with his array on Paris. The retreat was made in 
good order on the 3rd ; but the losses and hard- 
ships of the French had been terrible. 

In this fierce and prolonged contest Ducrot had 
proved himself a skilful and resolute soldier.-^ But 
the enterprise was undertaken against his will ; he 
had little faith in a successful issue ; he wished the 
sortie to be made from the western front, and the 
change in the operation was of evil omen. Ducrot, 
too, had been badly treated by Fortune ; the sudden 

1 An unwarrantable charge, afterwards withdrawn, was made 
that Ducrot broke his parole after Sedan ; and he has been ridi- 
culed for a rhetorical expression in an address to his troops before 
the sortie. But he was a very able and valiant warrior, and he 
rightly insisted that France should fight after Sedan. He inter- 
preted the judgment of History more accurately than Thiers, who 
wished to temporize, and' make an ignominious peace. " La 
Defense de Paris," vol. ii. p. 76 : " ' General,' dit M. Thiers, ' vous 
parlez comme un soldat, c'est tres bien, mais vous ne parlez pas 
comme un homme politique.' ' Monsieur, je crois egalement parler 
en homme politique ; une grande nation comuie la France, se 
releve toujours de ses mines materielles, elle ne se relcve jamais 
de ses ruines morales. En continuant a defendre pied a pied le 
sol de la Patrie, notre generation souffrira peutetre davantage, 
mais nos enfants beneficieront de I'honneur que nous aurons 
sauvc.' " Noble words, uttered amidst tlie scoffs and scepticism 
of what was called European opinion, but amply coniirmed. 

298 MOLTKE. 

rise of the Marnc had delayed the attack on Villlers 
for twenty-four hours at least, and this alone almost 
assured the defeat of the French arras. He was 
badly seconded, besides, by his left wing, which, 
having arrived on the field late, assailed the main 
position of the Germans in front, instead of endea- 
vouring to turn it, as had been directed, and two or 
three lesser mistakes were made. But a study of 
these engagements induces us to think that Ducrot 
could hardly have succeeded in any event ; the zone 
of the besiegers was too strong to be broken ; and 
even if it had been forced the French would have 
been pursued, and probably defeated in the open 
country. It deserves notice, too, that though 
Ducrot's army was much more numerous than the 
enemy it assailed, it was so confined to a narrow space 
that the French were not more than 55,200 ^ against 
45,000 men at the decisive points, the attacks on 
Villiers and CcBuilly ; and these figures almost prove 
that success was hopeless, bearing in mind the 
strength of the German positions. In the battle of 
the 2nd, according to Ducrot, the numerical supe- 
riority was reversed ; the Germans were 72,000 to 
62,000,^ and yet, in their efforts against the zone of 
the defence, they too were, on the whole, worsted. 

1 " La Defense de Paris," vol. ii. p. 286. 

2 Ibid. vol. iii. p. 55. The " Prussian Staff History " is silent 
on the subject, and must be presumed to acquiesce in these 
figures, as it is partly compiled from General Ducrot's work. It 
is unnecessary to refer to German writers, who have described 
the sortie as the defeat of 100,000 Frenchmen by 20,000 


It is probable, in fact, that by this time the lines of 
the besiegers and the lines of the besieged had 
become impregnable to attack, save through ap- 
proaches made by the art of the engineer, a possible 
exception being the western front, covered at this 
moment by formidable works, where a sortie, com- 
bined with a determined effort made by an army of 
relief from without, might, both Moltke and Ducrot 
thought, have had some chances of success. But 
though they failed, the French had been not un- 
worthy of their martial race in this desperate 
struggle, and they lost more than 9000 men, a 
result in striking contrast with th.e trifling of 
Bazaine.^ The losses of their enemy were not 2000, 
such was the protection afforded to the defence at 
Villiers ; the Germans had borne themselves as 
became good troops, still upheld by the renown of 
Metz and Sedan. 

The arms of Germany had once more triumphed ; 
the Army of the Loire had been rent in twain ; the 
great sortie from Paris had failed ; the efforts to 
relieve the capital had been frustrated. Yet there 
was little exultation in the German camp ; an 
uneasy feeling of anger pervaded Germany ; 
opinion m Europe refused to predict another suc- 
cession of German victories. The fall of Metz, a 
caprice of fortune, had alone saved the besiegers 
from the gravest perils; the Army of the Loire 
might, perhaps, have raised the siege ; the invaders 

' The total losses of the French iii all these sorties exceeJcil 
12,000 men. 

300 ' MOLTKE. 

were thrown upon tlie defensive ; they were exposed 
to attacks of a formidable kind as long as the 
capital should hold out ; and all this had become 
distinctly manifest. The prodigies, too, of the first 
part of the war had been followed by a second 
prodigy, the gigantic national resistance of Prance ; 
she had risen from the depths of misfortune to 
show how great was her power ; her hastily 
gathered levies had done wonders, and the chariot- 
wheels of the once boastful conquerors *' drave 
heavily" through ever-increasing obstacles. Yet 
Moltke maintained his undaunted attitude ; if he 
tacitly admitted that he had made mistakes in ad- 
vancing on Paris before the time, and in undervaluing 
the resources of France, he left nothing undone to 
repair these errors, and while many around him 
doubted and feared he manfully stood up against a 
sea of troubles. His position around Paris was, for 
the moment, safe ; D'Aurelle had been defeated on 
the Loire ; events in the north, which we shall 
glance at, had been favourable to the German arms, 
and the great city was, for the present, in eclipse. 
He continued steadily to forge the chains which, he 
was convinced, would yet subjugate France — stern, 
resolute, able, and self-reliant. The besiegers' lines 
were still further strengthened; the armies which 
formed the external zone were reinforced in every 
direction ; the severest measures were taken to put 
down the national resistance where it raised its 
head ; and the march of the invaders was often lit 
up by the flames of hamlets, revealing the ghastly 


spectacle ^ of peasants hung and shot for being 
found in arms and for striking a blow to defend 
their country. To sustain him in his task, Moltke 
could look with confidence to devoted lieutenants of 
proved skill and to admirably organized military 
power ; and Germany, aflame with national passion, 
went forth to uphold a mighty conflict which had 
become an internecine strife of races. The youngest 
recruits and the oldest men of the Landwehr had 
been already called into the field, and a fierce impulse 
sent tens of thousands of warriors, like their Gothic 
fathers in the distant past, to descend on the lands 
beyond the Rhine. The final issue of the contest 
was determined as much, perhaps, by this universal 
movement as by the regular armies of Germany. 

If we turn to the opposite side, the efforts of 
France had scarcely had a parallel even in her 
history. IN'early a million of men had been enrolled 
in arms in Paris and in the provincial levies, and 
this after the Imperial armies had been carried into 
Germany captive. The result had been characteristic 
of an heroic race, and, to a certain extent, it had 
been successful. The Germans had been decidedly 
checked ; Coulmiers had been a real, if not a 
fruitful victory; a series of mischances had alone 
saved the invaders from defeat, perhaps from 

' These executions are not to be too harslily condemned ; they 
■were in accordance with the laws of war. But the franctireurs 
of France were treated as XaiDoleon treated the Spanish guerillas ; 
and the sufferings of the one class of victims were disregarded, 
Avhile tlie other class was extolled as heroes and martyrs. 

302 MOLTKE. 

disaster. The issue of events was still doubtful ; and 
France, deprived of her organized forces, had risen 
from under the heel of a conqueror, and had, in a 
few weeks, made the national defence so power- 
ful, so general, so unyielding that the scales of 
fortune hung in even balance. But unity and 
subordination in command were wanting to France at 
this supreme crisis, not less than well-ordered military 
force. Gambetta had destroyed as well as created ; 
the defeat of the Army of the Loire is to be ascribed 
to him ; the best chance for the relief of Paris, 
difficult as it would have been in any event, had 
been lost by divided counsels and by compliance with 
thoughtless and idle opinions. Chanzy and D'Aurelle, 
each of whom could have done much, had been reck- 
lessly crossed and thwarted. France did not possess 
a single uncontrolled leader to make the most of 
her resources of war, and to carry out operations in 
the field with a definite aim and a settled purpose ; 
and the armed strength of the nation, inferior as it 
was to that of an adversary well prepared for years, 
was wasted unwisely and misdirected. The exer- 
tions of France, therefore, grand as they were, were 
spasmodic, ill-regulated, and, in a great degree, 
paralyzed ; and she was in a death struggle with a 
gigantic foe, whose military power was perfectly 
matured, and was directed with admirable energy 
and skill ; who had hundreds of thousands of trained 
soldiers on foot, and who was animated by passions 
as ardent as her own. The evil infl.uences that 
weakened the strength of France were to produce 



their effects up to the last moment, and contributed 
largely to her ultimate defeat. The end, however, 
had not yet come ; she was yet to show that she 
had not lost the illustrious breed of her great sol- 
diers ; she was yet to fight with such intense 
earnestness, that the invaders remained in continual 
peril ; and she was to give proof of such inherent 
power, that she was to be formidable even in adverse 


The First Army in Picardy — Indecisive battle near Amiens — 
Advance of the Eirst Army into Normandy — Retreat of the 
French Army of the North — Rouen captured — Fall of Thion- 
ville, Montmedy, and, before long, of Mezieres — These suc- 
cesses strengthen the position of the Germans round Paris 
and in France — Preparations for the bombardment of Paris — 
Werder in Burgundy and Franche Comte — The siege of Belfort 
— Werder at Dijon — The French Army of the East— Garibaldi 
and Cremer — The Germans in the east reinforced by part of 
the First Army — The prospect becomes gloomy for France — 
Sudden change effected by Chanzy on the Loire — Events on 
this theatre of the war since the fall of Orleans — Chanzy 
attacked by the Germans — Protracted and desperate conflict 
of four days — Great ability of Chanzy — His skill and com- 
manding influence over his troops and their officers — His 
retreat to the Loire — His masterly arrangements baffle the 
German commanders — They concentrate their forces against 
him — He retreats to the Sarthe, occupies Le Mans, and resumes 
the offensive — The Grand Duke and Prince Frederick Charles 
fall back — Heavy losses of their armies — The French Army 
of the North marches towards the Somme — Indecisive battle 
on the Hallue — Inefi'ectual sortie from Paris — The military 
situation, if unfavourable to France, is still doubtful — 
Gradual and immense additions to the numbers of the 
German troops — The efforts of France continue — Reflections 
on these operations. 

The defeat of the Army of the Loh^e at Orleans, 
and the failure of the great sortie from Paris, 
were not the only ominous signs at this conjunc- 
ture, and during the next few weeks, of disaster 


for the arms of France. Part of the First Army, 
after the fall of Metz, had, we have seen, been 
moved towards the valley of the Oise; and, by 
the last days of November, it had entered Picardy 
and the flourishing region around Amiens. It was 
here opposed by part of the French Army of the 
North, raised by Gambetta in Artois and Picardy, 
and given the name of the 22nd corps ; and it had 
passed from Bourbaki's hands, when he had been 
sent to the Loire, into those of General Farre, a 
distinguished soldier. The hostile forces encoun- 
tered each other near Villers Bretonneux, just to 
the east of Amiens ; a fierce and indecisive battle 
was fought, most honourable to the French ^ levies, 
but Farre ere long fell back behind the Somme, and 
Amiens capitulated a few days afterwards. The 
invaders now overran Normandy, meeting little 
resistance from a motley force of 40,000 or 50,000 
men, the remaining part of the Army of the North ; 
they had soon seized Rouen and the mouths of the 
Seine, and, like Ca9sar's Italian soldiers, they saw, 
for the first time, the waves of the Channel. La 
Fere, a petty fortress that molested their rear, was 
taken before the end of November ; and the First 
Army spread over a vast arc, extending from the 
Upper Oise to the Euro westwards, covered the 

^ On the French side General Faidherbe's " Campagne de 
I'Armee du Nord " is our best guide. This experienced and able 
soldier thus describes the conduct of the French levies at the 
battle near Amiens : " La bataille d'Amiens avait etc trcs honorable 
pour une armee aussi rapideraent improvisee que TArmce du Nord." 
Farre's retreat, indeed, was mainly caused by want of munitions. 


306 MOLTKE. 

Army of the Meuse before tlie norfhern front of 
Paris, from hostile efforts made in that direction. 
The external zone of the besiegers' forces received 
thus new additional strength, and, menacing as was 
the position of the French Army of the N"orth behind 
the fortresses between the Somme and the frontier 
— famous in the great wars of Louis XIV. — the 
Army of the Meuse was thenceforward secure. 

Thionville and Montmedy had, ere long, suc- 
cumbed to the part of the First Army that had been 
left in the rear, and Mezieres surrendered some time 
afterwards. The fall of these fortresses gave the 
Germans possession of several railway lines from 
the east ; and as they had mastered Lorraine, and 
nearly the whole of Alsace, their communications, 
dangerously straitened at first, were made perfectly 
open and secure. This enabled the armies besieging 
Paris, not only to obtain vast stores of supplies, 
and reinforcements even now needed, but to bring 
up the immense siege train required for the bom- 
bardment ; and the transport of the heavy guns and 
other material — which had been in progress for 
several weeks, in order to compel, as was hoped in 
the German camp, the speedy submission of the 
proud city — was accelerated, and protected from 

Meanwhile, Moltke addressed himself to strength- 
ening the external zone in the east, and quelling 
the efforts of the French levies between the Or- 
leanais and Franche Comte. The French Army 
of the East had, we have seen, been consider- 


ably weakened along this line by the removal of 
the 20th corps to the Loire ; and at present it con- 
sisted of two masses, one under Garibaldi, the 
renowned Italian, who had brought his sword to 
the assistance of France, and the other under 
Cremer, an unknown soldier. These bodies, sup- 
ported by bands of irregulars, and in communica- 
tion with levies gathering in the south, held the 
tract between Besan^on and the Upper Yonne, 
sending occasional detachments to the Army of the 
Loire ; and as the chief part of the Second Army 
had been suddenly moved on Orleans, at the intelli- 
gence of the fight at Coulmiers, they held a threaten- 
ing position upon the extended flank of the German 
invasion from the Rhine to Paris. Werder, accord- 
ingly, and the 14th corps, increased by many 
thousands of men, had been directed to press the 
siege of Belfort, almost the last stronghold of the 
French in Alsace, and he had established himself 
firmly around Dijon, repelling, from this great cen- 
tral position, the desultory attacks of the Army of 
the East. A gap, however, existed between the 
divisions of Werder and the Second Army, and 
Moltke filled this towards the close of November with 
the 7th corps of the First Army, detached from Metz, 
and the fortresses of the Moselle, placing it between 
Dijon, the Yonne, and the Loing, and in contact 
with Prince Frederick Charles. Some partial skir- 
mishes were fought along this line, in several 
instances favourable to the French ; but Werder and 

the chief of the 7th corps successfully maintained 

X 2 

308 MOLTKE. 

the ground tliey held, and kept back the ever 
advancing enemy. 

Having secured his position in the north and the 
east, and made his communications easy and broad, 
Moltke turned next to the west and south. The 
external zone along these fronts of the siege ap- 
peared at first, in all respects, safe, and able to defy 
the provincial armies. On the west, indeed, it was 
only composed of bodies of cavalry and a small 
force of infantry, the Grand Duke having set off 
for Orleans ; but though levies were being raised 
in multitudes, in Normandy, Brittany, Maine, and 
Anjou, these were, as yet, in a backward state, and 
had not ventured to draw near the capital. The 
situation for the invaders, after the complete defeat 
of the Army of the Loire, before Orleans, was 
deemed, at Versailles, perfectly safe in the south ; 
in fact, all that was to be thought of was to gather 
in thoroughly the fruits of victory. Prince Frede- 
rick Charles and the Grand Duke were in full force 
in the region between the large bend of the Loire, 
on both sides of Orleans ; they had taken the city, 
we have seen, again ; they held both banks of the 
great river; they had sent detachments into the 
Sologne, and they occupied the course of the Loire 
from Gien to near Meung, the chief body of their 
troops being on the northern bank. On the other 
hand, the defeated Army of the Loire had giv^en, for 
a moment, not a sign of life. The routed centre, 
the 15th corps, had fled to Salbris, far south of the 
Loire, and DAurelle had been deprived of his com- 


mancl by a gross act of wrong on tlie part of Gam- 
betta. The right wing, the 18th and 20th corps, 
left idly " in the air," after Beaiine La Rolando, had 
made its escape, by Gien, far away ; before long it 
had joined the 15th, and the collected force, in a 
pitiable state, having been placed in Bourbaki's 
hands, was ultimately rallied around Bourges. As 
for Chanzy, and the 16th and 17th corps, it was 
not exactly known where he was ; but the con- 
querors assumed that the French left wing was a 
horde of fugitives, like the centre and right, and its 
speedy annihilation was hourly expected. In the 
first days of December, the Grand Duke and the 
Prince were directed " to crush the defeated enemy," 
and this result seemed easy and certain alike. 

By these operations the external zone, originally 
restricted and feeble in the extreme, had been spread 
over an immense circumference, and made an almost 
impassable line ; and Paris was enclosed within a 
double rampart of foes, the one defying the efforts 
of the besieged, the other keeping back the provin- 
cial armies. The communications of the invaders 
had, too, been assured ; the attack on Paris was 
soon to begin, and the citizens to pass through the 
ordeal of fire, and outside the capital little seemed 
to be done but to destroy the remains of the 
Army of the Loire. And should Paris even stand 
a bombardment, she would necessarily yield before 
long to famine ; and meanwhile, as her power of 
resistance slackened, Moltke, now in possession of 
interior lines, and of a centi'al position amidst his 

310 MOLTKE. 

foes, Wt>uld be able to detacli troops from the be- 
sieging armies to send tliem to every point menaced 
in tlie external zone, and to defeat in detail the pro- 
vincial levies. The mistake of the original advance 
on Paris, which, we have said, had been largely 
averted by the unexpected surrender of Metz, had 
by this time been almost wholly corrected, owing in 
part to Moltke's unbending constancy, in part to 
the misdirected efforts of France, chiefly, perhaps, 
to the gigantic onset of Germany, and he could 
look forward to the result hopefully. The prospect, 
in truth, had become dark for France, but a hght 
suddenly shone out at one point of the scene, to 
the discomfiture of her astounded foes, and this 
revealed to the world a great captain, showed 
how prodigious was yet her essential strength, illus- 
trated admirable feats of her arms, and proved the 
issue of the strife to be still uncertain. 

Chanzy had, we have seen, fallen back to the left 
during the disastrous retreat of D'Aurelle on 
Orleans. He had endeavoured in vain to join his 
colleague, and on the 5th of December he was in 
positions considerably to the south-west of the city, on 
a line between Beaugency on the Loire and Josnes. 
He was here informed that the Army of the Loire 
had been divided into two great parts, the one com- 
posed of the centre and right, entrusted, we have said 
before, to Bourbaki, and the second, the 16th and 
17th corps, placed under his command as General-in- 
Chief, and he found himself unexpectedly reinforced 
to an extent that might have been deemed impos- 


sible. With characteristic energy and resource Glam- 
betta had moved the best divisions of the Army of 
the AYest, called the 21st corps, to the aid of Chanzy, 
and had pushed forward a strong detachment from 
Tours, and the chief of the new Second Army of the 
Loire, owing to this extraordinary and well-concealed 
effort, was at the head of 80,000 or 90,000 men. 
These troops, however, for the most part, were mere 
levies ; and the 16th corps, the soldiers ofCoulmiers 
and Loigny, had suffered such losses, and had been 
so weakened, that a fragment only of it could remain 
in the field. The army, however, had good artillery, 
obtained by Gambetta from abroad ; its far-reaching 
small-arms could be made most destructive in a 
region of plains ; some excellent officers were in its 
ranks, notably Jaureguibbery, a distinguished sea- 
man, and, above all, it was in the hands of a com- 
mander of most remarkable powers. Chanzy resolved 
to make head against the enemy, and to defend, where 
he stood, the valley of the Loire; and with this 
object he chose a strong position, extending from 
the Forest of Marchenoir on his left, to Meung and 
Beaugency on the extreme right, and covered in 
front by many villages, affording excellent points for 
defence. Behind this line, difficult to turn on the 
flanks, bristling with obstacles to a direct attack, 
and giving spaces for offensive returns, Chanzy drew 
up his army of recruits, and sternly awaited the 
German onslaught. 

At this juncture the Grand Duke and his army, 
from 30,000 to 40,000 strong, were approaching 

312 MOLTKE. 

Meung, on tlie northern bank of the Loire ; and of 
the three corps of the Second Army, one was around 
Gien observing Bonrbaki, another was holding 
Orleans and the adjoining tract, and the last was 
marching down the southern bank of the Loire, 
divided from the Grand Duke by the river. The 
German leaders were not aware that Chanzy 
and his army were at hand, and had no idea that he 
had received a reinforcement, great in numbers, at 
least ; and they had placed their forces on either side 
of the Loire in order easily to pounce on Tours, and 
to crush, in its seat, the Republican Government. 
Their boastful hopes were rudely dispelled, and an 
astonishing passage of arms was witnessed. On 
the 6th of December a slight encounter took place 
between an advanced guard of the Grand Duke and 
a detachment of Chanzy near Meung, and as the 
French were, on the whole, beaten, the Germans 
pressed forward with increased confidence. The 
result was very different when they had come before 
the admirably chosen positions of their foes. A 
desperate contest raged for four days ; the Grand 
Duke searched every part of Chanzy's line, and 
assailed it in front and on both flanks, but he not 
only failed to overwhelm his eueray, but was com- 
pelled to seek the assistance of the corps at Orleans, 
and of the corps on the opposite side of the Loire ; 
and his army lost many thousands of men, while 
some of his divisions were cut to pieces.^ At the 

^ The German account of these battles, " Prussian Staff History," 
Part ii. vol. ii. 47, 63, is quite inadequate, and far from candid. 


From photograph by F. Etienne Caiiat, Paris. 

To face pat/e 313. 


close of this extraordinary struggle the right wing 
of Chanzy Jiad lost some ground, owing chiefly to a 
surprise by night, but the centre and left wing had 
scarcely fallen back ; and though his young levies 
had cruelly suffered, they had successfully kept 
their well-trained adversaries in check. Had the Ger- 
man chiefs had the least notion of Chanzy's position 
and of the strength of his army, they would never 
have divided their forces on the Loire, perhaps would 
not have attacked at all ; and they were baffled in 
this fierce and protracted conflict.^ Yet the success 

The writer, indeed, does not deny the losses of the Grand Duke, 
but he asserts that the French had " a fourfold superiority of 
strength." This calculation can only be arrived at by suppressing 
the facts that the 9th Prussian corps, on the southern bank of 
the Loire, assisted the Grand Duke by keeping a large French 
division in check, and that two divisions of Chanzy's 16th corps 
were not engaged at all. The French could hardly have been 
much more than double the number of the Germans, unless the 
Grand Duke had suffered more losses before these days than has 
ever been suspected. 

^ How well contested and terrible these battles were has been 
attested by many eye-witnesses, especially by a correspondent of 
the Times, writing with German sympathies from the German 
camp. One passage from Chanzy's most valuable work, " La 
Deuxieme Armee de la Loire," p. 447, will suffice here : " Pendant 
les rudes journees de Josncs, un ofificier supcrieur allemand fait 
prisonnier, ne dissimulait rien de I'etonnement que lui causait 
la resistance de nos jeunes troupes, comparait ces batailles de la 
Beauce a celles de 186G auxquelles il avait pris part, et avouait 
que ces dernicres n'e'taient qu'un jeu d'enfants auprcs de ces 
luttes acharnees et incessantes qu'il lui fallait de nouveau soutenir 
pour reduire un pays qu'ils croyaient j\ bout de ses ressources aprcs 
ses dcsastres. C'est la le plus bel cloge de ces armees nouvelles 
que la volontc et le patriotismc de la France ont fait surgir." 

314 MOLTXE. 

of Chanzy — for success it was — was less due to the 
errors of his foes than to the admirable dispositions 
he had made on the field. His strategy and tactics 
had alike been excellent, and worthy of a captain 
of a very high order. He had placed his army of 
levies on ground where the Germans could not 
obtain the full advantage caused by superior power 
of manoeuvre, and he had really forced the Grand 
Duke to attack in front, exposed to the deadly fire 
of rifled guns and small-arms. He had also made 
repeatedly counter attacks, essential for an effective 
defence, and he had shown a skill in combining the 
three arms and making their united power felt, not 
shown by other French generals in the war. But 
above all, he had inspired his lieutenants and their 
men with his own indomitable and heroic spirit; 
and the sensitive and gallant French nature felt at 
once the influence of a true leader, and, under its 
spell, made noble efforts. The result of these 
battles is more than sufiicient proof of what the 
Army of the Loire might have done had it been 
committed from the first to Chanzy's hands, nay, 
had it not been exposed to defeat and ruin by Gam- 
betta's reckless and hasty meddling. 

The French Army, though in high heart, ^ could 

^ Chanzy thus describes the attitude of his troops at the end of 
this series of battles : " La Deuxicme Armce de la Loire," p. 150 : 
" L'ardeur des troupes etait telle qu'a diverse reprises, pendant 
Taction, le gencral-en-chef avait dil donner I'ordre aux divisions de 
ne pas se laisser entrainer trop loin, tout mouvement de I'armco 
en dehors de ses positions ctant imprudent et inutile." 


no longer bear the incessant strain on it, especially 
as the enemy was being daily reinforced. Chanzy 
most wisely resolved to fall back ; his operations 
showed the greatest skill and insight. The relief 
of Paris was ever present to his mind, as the most 
pressing task of the provincial armies ; and he 
decided on retreating to the Loir, and even to the 
Sarthe, where he could rally the levies of the west 
and north, would be almost as near the capital as 
he had been when on the Loire, and would threaten 
the most assailable front of the lines of the siege. 
The strategic conception was the best possible ; but 
how was he to draw off his untrained army, through 
the broad and open plains of the Beauce, in the 
presence of adversaries given the power they 
would acquire through the retrograde movement ? 
Chanzy effected his purpose with most striking 
forethought, fertility of resource, and constancy. 
His first care was to make a feigned attack on an 
exposed point of the German line ; and his anta- 
gonists were so wholly deceived, that they prepared 
themselves for a defensive stand. Having thus 
concealed his real intentions, he sent a detachment 
to secure the passages of the Loir; and masking 
the chosen line of his retreat, by placing numerous 
irregulars in the Forest of Marchenoir, especially 
in its northern outskirts, he fell back through the 
great plain that extends between the Forest and the 
course of the Loire. These, however, were only part 
of the means he employed to perplex and threaten 
his foes, and to make the retrograde march safe. 


The German corps on the southern bank of the 
Loire was moving down the river, and menacing 
Blois ; two of the divisions of the 16th corps, which 
had not taken part in the late battles, were at Mer 
and Blois on the northern bank; and Ohanzy 
directed the commander of one of these to hold 
Blois to the last extremity ; and if the enemy should 
force the passage, to retreat further down the river 
to Amboise, and to withdraw attention from the 
main army. At the same time he sent repeated 
messages, entreating Bourbaki to make an effort to 
attack the corps on the southern bank ; and thus 
he not only screened his projected movement, but 
sousfht to have a diversion made on the rear of the 
Germans, and perhaps to place them in grave danger. 
These admirable moves completely succeeded ; 
and Chanzy made good his way to the Loir, and 
occupied the two points of Freteval and Vendome, 
almost unmolested by the hostile armies. The 
Grand Duke and Prince Frederick Charles, indeed, 
lost sight of the French for nearly two days ; and 
they then pursued, in the wrong direction, not 
following Chanzy's line of retreat, but making cir- 
cuitous movements on Freteval and Vendome. The 
German corps, no doubt, on the southern bank of 
the Loire, contrived to effect the passage at Blois, 
and thus to join its supports late ; and Bourbaki's 
army was not in a state to make a demonstration 
in its rear ; ^ but at every other point of the field of 

^ Bourbaki had not Oianzy's capacity and resource, and the 
chief of the Imperial Guard naturally had no confidence in mere 


manoeuvre, the German leaders had been out- 
generalled. Prince Frederick Charles, when made 
aware at last of the position taken by Chanzy on 
the Loir, resolved, if possible, to destroy his ad- 
versary; he had already summoned his only 
remaining corps from Gien and Orleans to join in 
the contest ; and he attacked Chanzy at Vendome 
on the 15th of December, hoping in a day or two to 
crush him with his whole united forces. The battle 
was indecisive, but the French lost ground ; and 
Chanzy with perfect judgment fell back on the 
Sarthe, and spread his wearied army in camps round 
Le Mans, a strategic point of the first importance. 
By this time, the German corps in the rear had 
come up ; but the German commanders did not 
pursue ; the Grand Duke had ere long retired on 
his former positions around Chartres ; the Prince 
fell back on the tract near Orleans, and only a 
single corps of the Second Army was left beyond 
the Loir to observe Chanzy. That indefatigable 
chief was soon in the field again, sending out flj'ing 
columns to hold his enemy in check ; and one of 
these was engaged, not without success, with a 
hostile detachment near Yendome. 

These operations of Chanzy form a striking episode 
in the drama of the war of 1870-1. His retreat on 
the Loir and the Sarthe, a more remarkable feat 

levies. But he was a gallant and loyal, if afterwards a most 
unfortunate, soldier, and his army was not at this moment fit to 
move. See a remarkable letter by Gambetta, " La Deuxiemo 
Armce de la Loire," p, 517. 

318 MOLTKE. 

than the retreat of Moreau through the Black Forest, 
was really a great strategic movement, successful in 
the main objects aimed at ; and equal to one of the 
fine marches of Turenne. In the first contest he 
had baffled his confident foes, who had attacked 
him with forces unwisely divided ; he had out- 
manoeuvred them as he fell back on Vendome and 
Le Mans ; he had carried out his original design, 
had drawn near his supports in the west and the 
north, and stood menacing the investing circle 
round Paris ; ^ he had inflicted immense injury on 
the German armies ; and he had done these great 
things with an assemblage of levies, not a fourth 
part of them being trained soldiers. The nature 
of the situation, in fact, created by him, was made 
evident^ in the alarm which prevailed at Versailles, 
where it was thought that, impregnable as it had 
appeared, the external zone might be even now 
broken ; but it was best proved by the operations of 
the Germans themselves. At the intelligence of 
the fierce struggle with Chanzy, Moltke had urged 
the Grand Duke and Prince Frederick Charles not 
to press forward too far towards the west, and 
especially to keep an eye on Bourbaki, who might 
slip past them, and march on the capital. The 
pursuit of Chanzy, therefore, was soon given up ; 

^ See tlie very intelligent reports of a correspondent of the 
Times, quoted by Chanzy, " La Deuxieme Armce de la Loire," 
pp. 522, 525. 

^ See a number of reports quoted by Chanzy in the same ^york, 
pp. 526-7. 


and a mere demoustration made by Bourbaki, in the 
hope of assisting his hard-pressed colleague, had 
caused the German commanders to fall back, the 
one towards Chartres, the other on Orleans. These 
operations, however, were timid in the extreme ; 
and had the Grand Duke and Prince Frederick 
Charles been able at this juncture to keep the field, 
assuredly Moltke would have spared no effort, to 
strike down the still invincible foe, who had really 
discomfited his perplexed lieutenants. But the 
forces of the invaders had been half destroyed, 
in the late bloody and exhausting contest ; the 
Bavarians alone, it has been asserted, were reduced 
to 5000 or 6000 men ; and the Germans were so 
broken down, in heart and courage, that it had 
become necessary to give them repose. In fact, 
but for the large reinforcements which fortunately 
had been provided for them, these divisions of the 
great conquering host would, perhaps, have been 
unable to fight again; and had Bourbaki, at this 
moment, possessed the means of making a great 
offensive movement, the Germans in the south would 
have been in the gravest peril. The great com- 
mander, in a word, who had suddenly appeared, 
had, imperfect as his resources had been, very 
nearly changed the position of affairs.^ 

' "The Prussian Staff History," Part ii. vol. ii. pp. 39, 97, con- 
tains a very meagre and deceptive account of Clianzy's operations. 
It cannot, however, altogether conceal the discomfiture of the Grand 
Duke and Prince Frederick Charles, and the great losses sustained 
by their armies. It should be confronted at every point by 

320 MOLTKE. 

Chanzy had establislied his army firmly at 
Le Mans, as 1870 was about to close. Meanwhile 
operations, not without interest, had taken place on 
the theatre of war in the north. After the inde- 
cisive battle near Amiens, the invaders, we have 
seen, had overrun Normandy ; and having occupied 
Rouen, and other towns, were menacing even the 
great port of Havre. But Gambetta had added 
another corps, the 23rd, to the 22nd in the north, 
and had placed at their head the ablest chief after 
Chanzy, seen on the side of France ; and Faidherbe 
had made the Army of the North capable of appear- 

Chanzy's narrative^ " La Deuxierae Armee de la Loire," pp. 101, 
222 ; and by General Derrecagaix's excellent epitome, " La Guerre 
Moderne," vol. ii. pp. 444, 465. For the real state of the situation 
after the retreat to Le Mans, see Chanzy, p. 222. I quote the fol- 
lowing striking passage : "La deuxieme armee venait encore d'operer 
line retraite tout aussi difficile que les prcccdentes et qui, comme 
elles, lui fait honneur. L'ennemi, contenu partout, etait devenu 
de moins en moins entreprenant ; il etait facile de voir que, pas 
plus que les notres ses troupes n'avaient pu resister a la fatigue ; 
ses hommes etaient, eux aussi, grandement demoralises par cette 
persistance d'une lutte qui se reprodaisait constamment, alors 
qu'ils la croyaient terminee : le desordre se mettait parfois dans ses 
colonnes, malgre sa solide organisation et sa discipline, Un 
officier d'ordonnance du gencral-en-chef egare dans le brouillard 
en portant un ordre, avait trouve les convois allemands dans la 
plus grande confusion dans les ravins d'Azay, et les troupes qui 
les escortaient completement debandces ; les memes renseignements 
etaient donne par les gens du pays. II y avait dans ces circon- 
stances les chances d'un succes certain, si nous avions eu alors, 
sur nos derrieres, quelques troupes fraiches, et une reserve 
solidement organisee, ou bien s'il eut ete possible av; general Bour- 
baki de faire une diversion qui eut maintenu sur la Loire une 
partie des corps avcc lesquels le prince Frederic Charles s'acharnait 
coutre la deuxieme armee." 


ing in the field towards the end of December. 
Advancing from the great fortress of Lille, he pushed 
forward to the line of the Somme, in order to reach 
the flank of the German invasion ; and this skilful 
movement compelled the enemy to evacuate part of 
Normandy, and even Amiens. Manteuffel, now the 
leader of the First Army, marched rapidly to strike 
his adversary down, but Faidherbe had chosen a very 
strong position behind the Hallue, an affluent of the 
Somme; and the battle that followed did high 
honour to the hastily organized levies of the 
French. The Germans ^ tried to turn the right of 
Faidherbe, as at Gravelotte, by an out-flanking 
movement, and fell in force on his well-protected 
centre, but both attacks were without success, and 
the French army retained its positions. The essen- 
tial difference, however, between troops inured to 

^ The " Prussian Staff History," Part ii. vol. ii. p, 110, asserts 
that Faidherbe's army consisted of " some 43,000 men and eighty- 
two guns." It was composed of three divisions only ; and General 
Derrecagaix, " La Gurre Moderne," vol. ii. p. 389, after a care- 
ful calculation, estimates the force of the Germans at 28,000 men 
and 108 guns, and that of the French at 35,000 men and sixty-six 
guns. This excellent writer and critic thus clearly indicates onu 
of the chief distinctions between an army of recruits and of trained 
soldiers : — " Meme avec les armes modernes, des soldats impro- 
vises animes du sentiment de devoir, enflammes par I'amour de 
la patrie, peuvent resister a de vielles troupes, quand ils ont pour 
chefs des otiiciers de valeur et pour theatre de lears efforts un 
terrain de combat favorable. Mais pour depasser ce but, pour 
prendre I'offensive et obtenir des succcs decisifs, il faut, on le voit, 
des soldats exerces, une organisation solide, une cohesion, et une 
discipline que les armees longuement pr<:;parees peuvent seules 


322 MOLTKE. 

war, and mere young soldiers, convinced Faidherbe 
that he had not the power to resist the enemy's 
second effort ; and he fell back behind the strong- 
holds of the north. He had not contemplated an 
attempt to relieve Paris, and he had probably accom- 
plished all that he had hoped ; Normandy was for 
the present freed to some extent from the enemy. 
But he had abandoned the offensive, and was com- 
pelled to retreat, and Moltke's great object had 
been secured; the external zone shielding the 
Army of the Meuse, on the northern front of the 
siege, had not been even shaken. 

We turn to Paris, the chief centre of the intermit- 
tent but gigantic struggle, now raging from the 
Vosges, and the Jura, along the Loire to the verge of 
Brittany. After his retreat behind the Marne on the 
3rd December, Ducrot had intended to renew the con- 
test within two or three days at most, in order to sup- 
port the Army of the Loire, supposed to be on its way 
to the capital. A letter from Moltke, however, in- 
forming Trochu of the complete defeat of D'Aurelle, 
at Orleans, prevented an attempt to renew the sortie ; 
and a fortnight was devoted to the necessary task 
of restoring the Second Army of Paris, shattered 
frightfully, we have seen, in the contest on the 
Marne. Preparations were completed in the third 
week of December, for another great effort against 
the German lines ; and on this occasion the northern 
front of the investing circle was the chief point of 
attack, probably because Faidherbe and the Army 
of the North were known to be only a few marches 


distant. The sortie was made at daybreak on tlie 
21st, on as vast a scale as that of November ; a 
formidable attack on the plain of St. Denis, and 
thence on Bondy, and towards the line of the 
Marne, was combined with demonstrations against 
the lines to the west ; but it failed, after a brief 
struggle, and it became evident that the besiegers' 
zone was not to be broken by mere assaults, and 
that the Parisian levies were losing their former 
confidence. Vinoy, indeed, covering his troops by 
the fire of numerous batteries placed on the hill of 
Avron, captured two or three outposts to the north- 
east ; and Ducrot gained some partial success in an 
advance between Drancy and the Wood of Bondy. 
But the main attack,^ conducted by Ronciere de 
Noury, a distinguished "chief of the French Navy, 
was repelled with little difficulty by the Prussian 
Gruard ; the onset of the French broke in fragments 
agahist Le Bourget, a strongly fortified village, and 
though Ronciere was not sustained on his right, 
there is no reason to believe that, in any event, the 
issue of the conflict would have been difi'erent. The 
Parisian armies fell back at all points, suffering again 
severely from cold and hardship ; but their losses in 
the field had not been great, an indication that 
their courage had flagged ; and there are grounds 
for an opinion expressed by Ducrot, that the Ger- 
mans had been informed beforehand of the projected 
sortie through their numerous spies. 

^ The armour-clad waggons seem, to have done good service 
with their guns on tliis occasion. 

¥ 2 

324 MOLTKE. 

The easy discomfiture of this effort provoked 
irritation and anger in Paris. The Government, 
sprung from revolution itself, was little able to quell 
revolutionary clamour, and exhibited alarming signs 
of weakness. The Ministry, too, was divided in 
mind ; a minority, supported in this by Ducrot, saw 
in Moltke's letter a pacific overture, and thought 
that the time to treat had come ; but the majority 
including Trochu, and led by Gambetta, — who 
though absent, bowed his colleagues to his will — 
insisted on prolonging the struggle. The reins of 
power were held with increasing slackness; and this 
was not only injurious to the defence, but strength- 
ened the evil and noxious elements abounding at all 
times in the capital of France. Vile demagogues 
eager to gain cheaply applause for themselves, by 
appeals to the multitude, denounced the Govern- 
ment as false and worthless; a Press, valiant on paper, 
echoed their cries ; noisy clubs of Jacobins pro- 
nounced for a rising ; the hideous figures, which, 
before long, were to become the infamous leaders of 
the Commune, began to make their influence felt ; 
and faction and disorder raged in parts of the city.^ 
The attitude, nevertheless, of Paris, as a whole, 
continued to be, as it had been from the first, un- 
daunted, patient, calm, and heroic. The work of 
the defence went steadily on ; arrangements were 
made for another great sortie, and no signs of yield- 

^ For all these details see Ducrot's •' La Defense de Paris," 
vol. iii. pp. 189, 232. 


ing appeared, tliougli the bombardment, it was 
known, was at hand, and the batteries of Avron 
were soon to be destroyed by siege guns brought 
up by the Germans after Vinoy's late ineffectual 
effort. The citizens, unawed, still sternly held 
out ; and this, though the sufferings of all classes 
had already become intense, nay terrible. The mass 
of the population had been placed on rations, and 
had no sustenance but a worthless compound that 
scarcely deserved the name of bread. Domestic 
animals and the vermin of the sewer had for weeks 
been eagerly consumed for food ; and the spectre of 
famine was even now visible. The death-rate was 
increasing with frightful speed; the mortality of 
the young had become appalling, and the gay, 
animated, and resplendent city wore the aspect of a 
plague-stricken space, cut off from the world, left in 
outer darkness, and frozen by the cold of an Arctic 
winter, for light and fire had almost vanished. Yet 
the population which, two centuries before, had 
defied Conde and Anne of Austria in their boasts 
that Paris could not do without the delicacy of the 
" bread of Gonesse," proved that its courage had 
not declined, and still kept more formidable enemies 
at bay.^ 

' Ducrot was an Imperialist and had no sympathy with the 
population of Paris ; but he describes its conduct in this language : 
" La Defense de Paris," vol. iii. p. 217 : — "A part le groupe des 
factieux, des revolutionnaires, qu'il ne pent jamais compter quand 
il s'agit de devoir, de sacrifice, a part cette populace sans nom, sans 
foi, sans patrie, ecume cosmopolite qui salit toutes les grandes 

326 MOLTKE. 

Moltke had not made Ws influence felt decisively, 
in the field, in this passage of the war. He had 
left his lieutenants to do their work in the provinces, 
and had only interposed in a single instance, 
with the Grand Duke and Prince Frederick Charles. 
But, confining himself to the great labour of the 
siege, and of the operations depending on it, he had 
so strengthened the double zone around Paris, and 
far beyond in France, that he might expect success 
in the near future. He had continued to make the 
best use of the huge reinforcements ever coming in; 
and he had largely increased of late the armies in 
the field, enormously reduced by the never-ending 
contest. His grasp was even now on the throat 
of the capital, for its power of resistance was 
visibly on the wane ; and while he could defy all 
that the besieged could do, he could always array 
imposing forces against the provincial armies, 

villes, onpeut dire qu'a Paris toutes les classes, riches ou pauvres, 
tous les ages, jeunes ou vieux, rivaliserent 'd'ardeur, de devoue- 
ment. Chacun mettant de cote et ses affections et ses espcrances, 
ne songea qu'au pays menace ; devant la Patrie en peril, il n'y eut 
plus qu'uD grand parti, celui de la Patrie." M. Viollet Le Due is 
equally a trustworthy witness from an opposite point of view in 
politics : " Memoire sur la Defense de Paris," p. 32 : " Oui 
I'attitude de la population de Paris est faite pour toucher profondc- 
ment les ames vraiment francaises. A part quelques cchauffources 
ridicules autant qu'odieuses, et trop bien annoncces par I'ennemi 
pour n'etes pas un pen son ouvrage, cette i^opulation, signalee dans 
le monde comme futile, legere, tcute a son bien etre et egoiste et 
toute a ses plaisirs, a donne un example, peut-etre unique dans 
I'histoire, de Constance, de fermete, d'abnegation, et de charite 


spread as these were on a vast circumference of 
which he held the centre. He could now easily 
send detachments from the besieging circle to the 
external zone; and he had, besides, this immense 
advantage : he could flash his orders to all parts of 
France from the Rhine to the Loire, and thence to 
the Seine, while the communication between Paris 
and all her armies of relief was tardy and precarious 
in the extreme. The balance was turning against 
France, and the invasion, at first a broken current, 
had become a destructive and far- spreading flood. 
Her exertions, however, were still worthy of her; 
the patriotic movement was as strong as ever ; 
Gambetta still created new armies; Faidherbe re- 
mained unconquered in the north ; the illustrious 
Chanzy had reduced two hostile armies to impotence 
for a time, and was menacing the besiegers' lines ; 
Bourbaki, Garibaldi and Cremer were in the field ; 
and armed levies were on foot in still growino- 
multitudes. Strong as it was, the external zone 
might yet yield to well applied pressure ; so long as 
the invaders were kept around Paris their position 
could not be deemed safe, nor would the fall of the 
capital necessarily lead to the defeat and the sub- 
jugation of France. If, at this supreme moment, 
her armed strength were ably directed and husbanded 
with care, the ultimate issue of the gigantic strife 
of infuriated races was still far from certain. 


Eetrospect of the military situation since Sedan — Position of 
affairs on the theatre of war at the end of 1870 — "What the 
operations of the French ought to have been — Wise views of 
Chanzy — Gambetta directs Bourbaki and the First Army of 
the Loire towards the east — Reckless imprudence of this 
strategy in existing circumstances — The Grand Duke and 
Prince Frederick Charles advance against Chanzy and 
the Second Army of the Loire — Skilful operations of 
Chanzy — Battle of Le Mans — The Germans held in check all 
day — The capture of one point in the line of defence at night 
compels Chanzy to retreat — He falls back on Laval and 
reorganizes his troops — Campaign in the north — Faidherbe 
successful at Bapaume — He moves on St. Quentin, and 
retreats after an indecisive battle — Campaign in the east — 
Bad condition of Bourbaki's army — He advances against 
Werder, and is successful at Villersexel — He loses a great 
opportunity, chiefly owing to the state of his troops — 
Werder retreats behind the Lisaine. — Battles of Hericourt, 
and retreat of Bourbaki — Paris isolated — The external zone 
of the Germans intact — Bombardment of the forts and the 
enceinte of Paris — The city bombarded — Complete failure of 
the attack — Sortie of the 19th January — It fails — Sufferings 
of the population of Paris — Its heroic attitude — The 
armistice — Bourbaki's army excepted — Views of Chanzy in 
the event of hostilities being resumed — His masterly arrange- 
ments and unshaken constancy — Advance of Manteuffel and 
the German Army of the South against Bourbaki — Skill 
of Moltke in directing this operation — Bourbaki tries to 
commit suicide — Catastrophe of his army, chiefly owing to a 
misunderstanding as to the armistice — It is forced to cross 


the frontier of France, and to retreat into Switzerland — Fall 
of Belfort and other French fortresses — Chanzy is still for 
war — The Assembly at Bordeaux pronounces for peace — 
The Treaty of Frankfort — Part taken by Moltke in the 
conditions imposed on France — Reflections on the war, with 
special references to events after Sedan. 

The eud of December was now at hand ; we may 
rapidly glance back at tlie course of the struggle — 
colossal, and still of varying fortunes — which had 
raged in France since the catastrophe of Sedan. 
Moltke had marched on Paris with a comparatively 
small force, leaving his communications almost 
closed, and — not to speak of Bazaine and his army 
— -with a series of fortresses in his rear ; and he had 
taken this step because he believed, in common with 
all in the German camp, that France and her 
capital would not dare to resist. Like Diebitsch, 
praised in his " Letters on the East," he had 
pressed boldly forward to bring the war to a close, 
but unlike Diebitsch, Moltke had to deal, not with 
the effete Turk, but with the French people. Paris 
had shut her gates, and France rose to arms. The 
invaders, bound to the investing circle they had 
drawn round the defiant city, were for months ex- 
posed to the incessant attacks of levies formidable 
in numbers and power ; the Germans were placed in 
grave peril, and their operations, which had been a 
succession of triumphs, became for a time feeble, 
uncertain, tentative. Moltke had emerged safe from 
this sea of troubles partly because Metz had fallen 
before its time, partly because Gambetta, with 

330 MOLTKE. 

extreme unwisdom, had misdirected the arms of 
France, but chiefly, perhaps, because the whole 
Grerman nation had passionately joined in a war of 
races, and had made gigantic efforts to support its 

But if Moltke had been mistaken in the first 
instance, his firmness, his energy, his clear insight, 
had done much to incline the balance of fortune, as 
the strife progressed, to the side of Germany. He 
had taken the true course for reducing Paris ; he 
had written, indeed, thirty years before, that 
" Towns of half a million of men do not fall by 
force of arms," ^ and dangerous as the situation had 
been, he could almost count on the fall of the city. 
Meanwhile, with steadfast aim and unchanging- 
purpose, he had devoted himself to the two-fold 
task of making his communications with the Ehine 
secure, and opening a broad way for the invasion, 
and of so strengthening the external zone he had 
thrown from the first around the besiegers, that 
it would be able to resist the French in the field ; 
and in this he had at last succeeded, having made 
the best use of the huge reinforcements placed 
unreservedly in his hands by Grermany. By this 
time many of the fortresses in their way had fallen ; 
the German armies occupied France from the Saone 
and the Loire to the Oise and the Somme ; thrown 
on the defensive during the first months of the 
siege, they could now generally take a bold 
offensive, and Moltke, fortunately given an un- 
1 The Eussians in Bulgaria and Kumelia, p. 435. 


divided command, was at last able to make their 
immense power felt. He could with safety send 
detachments from Paris, to add to the force of the 
external zone, for the strength of the besieged was 
failing ; he could direct the invading armies, at a 
moment's notice, from a central position, and on 
interior lines, against enemies scattered along a 
huge circle, and scarcely able to transmit a message 
to Paris ; and these conditions, as we have already 
pointed out, gave him a great, if not a decisive 
advantage in the final contest about to begin. 
Moltke, in a word, had been like a mariner, whose 
craft, struck by a sudden gust of wind, had been 
nearly thrown on its beam ends, but who, having 
averted shipwreck by courage and skill, could now 
look forward to a prosperous voyage. 

If we turn to France, her complete prostration 
after Sedan had seemed to invite the Germans to 
dictate peace in the midst of the capital. But 
Paris and the nation had sprung to arms, and the 
vast elements of military power in France, combined 
and arrayed by Gambetta's genius, had been suddenly 
formed into huge levies, which had checked and 
imperilled the amazed conquerors. The besieged 
city held the invaders to the spot, and the waves 
of an immense and universal rising, gathered in on 
all sides, on the German hosts, and more than once 
seemed about to engulph them. The premature 
surrender of Metz, however, had removed many of 
the dangers at hand ; the Army of the Loire, which 
could have done great things, had been recklessly 

332 MOLTKE. 

wasted in the field ; tlie vigorous sortie of Ducrot 
had failed, and after these reverses the provincial 
armies had, on the whole, been undoubtedly 
worsted, and Paris, which, in any event, would have 
to yield to famine, if not relieved, was exhibiting 
signs of increasing weakness. The military situa- 
tion had become of evil omen for France, and the 
position of the armies in Paris, and of the armies 
outside, was, as we have pointed out, unfavourable 
in the extreme. The prospect, nevertheless, was 
by no means desperate, if the prodigious resources 
of the nation for war were even now employed with 
real skill and judgment. So long as Paris continued 
to hold out, the invaders were more or less in- 
secure ; Moltke's external zone might even yet be 
broken, exposed as it was to far spreading attacks, 
and, in that event, the result would bode ill for 
them. Nor was France vanquished, though Paris 
should yield ; half of her territory was not yet 
occupied, and the national rising had been so 
powerful that it might yet weary the Germans 
out, if conducted on a wise defensive system. 
France, too, had still large armies in the field ; 
Chanzy had done wonders with his young levies ; 
Faidherbe was by no means a contemptible foe ; 
Gambetta had added ^ four new corps to those he 
had already raised, and behind them was an in- 
exhaustible supply of armed men, eager to fight for 
their country. Opinion in Europe, even at this 
great crisis, refused to predict the course of fast- 
1 The 19th, 24th, 25th and 26th corps. 


coming events, as can be seen by referring to the 
Press of the day. 

A fe\Y words will describe the positions of the 
belligerents on the theatre of war. Swelled by rein- 
forcements, of which the estimate bas varied from 
half a million to 300,000 men,^ the Grermans in 
France were fully 800,000 strong, this immense 
total including a mass of non-combatants. The 
besiegers of Paris had been reduced from some 
250,000 to 200,000 men, and the rest of the vast 
invading host was divided into garrisons of the 
captured fortresses, troops holding the communica- 
tions to the east, and the armies actively engaged 
in the field. The Grand Duke and Prince Frederick 
Charles were, the one at Chartres, the other at 
Orleans, having received large additions to their 

1 The "Prussian Staff History" scarcely alludes to these rein- 
forcements ; the writer, no doubt, wishes to keep out of sight the 
tremendous strain put on the resources of Germany, and does not 
like to admit how much a half-despotic military monarchy owed to a 
great national movement. In an appendix, indeed, vol. v. p. lOG, a 
statement is introduced to the effect that the reinforcements sent 
to the German army, from the beginning of the war to March, 
1871, were about 240,000 men; but this seems to include only 
troops sent to the armies round Paris and in the field, and not to 
refer to the troops that covered the communications ami held the 
fortresses of France. This estimate, it may be affirmed, falls far 
short of the truth, as ascertained by many authorities. A corre • 
spondent of the Times wrote these significant words at this junc- 
ture ; they tell more than carefully-arranged statistics : " That 
the whole country (of Germany) is being fast drained of its able- 
bodied male population is becoming terribly evident. The contrast 
since my visit in October is very striking. The number of men 
in the prime of life seems fearfully diminished." 

334 MOLTKE. 

shattered forces, and they were observing Chanzy 
and Bourbaki alike, each supposed to be trjdng to 
inarch to the relief of the capital. To the north 
Manteuffel was watching Faidherbe, and sending 
detachments to overrun Normandy ; and Werder, 
with an army ever on the increase, was occupying 
Burgundy and Franche Comte, and endeavouring to 
hasten the siege of Belfort, which was making a most 
stubborn defence. At the south-eaStern part of the 
external zone Moltke had raised a new barrier 
against the enemy ; he had brought back to Paris 
the 1st Bavarian corps, almost ruined by the efforts 
of Chanzy, but he was despatching from the siege 
the 2nd corps, to give support to the 7th, which, 
we have seen, was extended upon a long line con- 
necting Prince Frederick Charles with Werder. 

On the French side, the armies in Paris had been 
greatly reduced in numbers — 100,000 men had pro- 
bably disappeared — and the fighting power of the 
city, we have said, was failing, while a month would 
see the end of the store of provisions. As for the 
provincial armies, Chanzy was at Le Mans, his 
troops not reinforced as fully as he had hoped ; 
Bourbaki had, in some measure, restored his army, 
now given the name of the First Army of the Loire, 
and both commanders were in positions that enabled 
them to try to advance on Paris by a direct and well- 
combined movement. For the rest, Faidherbe was 
threatening the enemy on the Somme ; a large array 
of levies was filling the region between the Lower 
Seine, the Eure, and the Mayenne ; Garibaldi and 


Cremer were still opposing Werder; and a new 
army, which, had been formed in the south, was on 
the way from Provence to Eranche Comt6. Not- 
withstanding her losses, France had still at least a 
million of men in arms, and these prodigious num- 
bers were yet growing. These improvised forces, 
however, we need scarcely repeat, were not trained 
or well-organized soldiers ; they were ill-furnished 
with many kinds of appliances needed for great 
movements, and, as it was now the depth of a severe 
winter, they were especially unfit for operations 
that required celerity, endurance, and power of 

In these circumstances common sense pointed out 
the course of operations for the arms of France. 
An attempt to relieve Paris was the necessity of the 
hour, for the city could not hold out much longer, 
and this could be accomplished only by an imme- 
diate advance of the provincial armies on the 
beleaguered capital. As the effort, too, would not 
improbably fail, it was absolutely essential, with a 
view to the defence of France in the near future, 
that the armies of relief should run as little risk as 
possible, and should possess lines of retreat open, in 
order to maintain and prolong the contest. All 
this was perfectly seen by Chanzy, the one com- 
mander on the side of France who gave proof of 
real strategic insight, and was an adversary fit to 
cope with Moltke ; and, at this juncture, be en- 
treated Gambetta — in despatches which should be 
carefully studied — to give direction to the conduct of 

336 MOLTKE. 

the war, which alone promised success or safety. He 
clearly perceived the prodigious value of Moltke's 
central position and interior lines, and the facilities 
they gave the German commander to keep his hold 
on the Parisian forces, and to defeat the armies 
outside in detail, and he did justice to the skill and 
resource of his enemy. But, like a true soldier, he 
had not ceased to hope, and he thought that victory 
might yet be plucked from danger. A concentric 
march of all the provincial levies from their present 
positions on the besiegers' lines, combined with 
determined sorties from Paris, might yet, he believed, 
cause the siege to be raised, nay, lead to a reverse 
for the German arms, and, in any event, an opera- 
tion of the kind would enable the French to fall 
back and renew hostilities in the still intact pro- 
vinces. He proposed, therefore, that, at a given 
time, he should advance from Le Mans to the 
Seine ; that Bourbaki, from the Loire, should make 
a corresponding movement ; that Faidherbe should 
press forward from across the Somme ; that armed 
levies should march in second line ; and that, when 
the occasion had come, the armies in Paris should 
make desperate efforts to join in the attacks of all 
the armies uniting from without, and thus endeavour 
to force the zone of investment. Were this once 
effected, the Germans around Paris would obviously 
be placed in the gravest peril.^ 

1 Chanzy's views will be found in "La Deuxieme Armee de la 
Loire," pp. 234, 254. We have only space for a few words : 
" Dispose comme il Test Tennemi cherche evidemment a se pre- 



This project of Chanzy was, from every point of 
view, the best that could be formed as affairs stood ; 
even if it had failed, as we think would have hap- 
pened, it was not hopeless, and it was at least safe, 
and it was the one that Moltke expected and 
feared.^ Most unhappily for France, Gambetta had 
lent an ear to the counsels of a theorist isfnorant of 
war, and had already committed himself to a grand 
scheme of operations on an imposing scale, in which 
his fervid imagination beheld a glorious prospect. 
He had been forcibly impressed by the success with 
which he had recently moved large masses from the 
Saone to the Loire, and had unquestionably sur- 
prised the German commanders ; he had organized, 
we have seen, a new force in the South, which had 
been named the 24th corps ; he had called into 
being the 25th, near the Loire ; and opinion in 
France was eager for the relief of Belfort, defended, 
we have said, heroically for months, and for a 

senter successivement, et en forces, devant chacune de nos armees ; 
il manoeuvre tres habilement. . . . Nos trois prineipales armces 
une fois sur les positions indiquees, se mettre en communication 
avec Paris et combiner des-lors leurs efforts de chaque jour pour se 
rapprocher de I'objectif commun avec des sorties vigoureuses de 
I'armee de Paris, de fa9on a obligor les troupes ennemis d'investisse- 
ment a se maintenir tout entieres dans leurs lignes. Le resultat 
sera des-lors dans le succcs d'une des attaques extcrieures, et si ce 
succes est obtenu, si I'investissement peut-ctre rompu sur un point 
un ravittaillement de Paris pent devenir possible, I'ennemi peut-etre 
refoule et contraint d'abandonner une partie de ses lignes et de 
nouveaux efforts combines entre les armees de I'exterieur et de 
I'interieur, peuvent dans la lutte supreme aboutir a la dclivrance." 
1 "Prussian Staff History," Partii. vol. ii. p. 143; "The Franco- 
German War," vol. ii. pp. 87, 88, English translatiou, 


338 • MOLTKE. 

great effort to give succour to Paris. "With tliese 
facts before him, and knowing besides that Bour- 
baki had a large army round Bourges, and that 
Garibaldi and Oremer held their own in Burgundy, 
at the head of forces in considerable strength, Gam- 
betta, yielding to shallow advice, thought that he 
possessed the means of compassing at once the various 
objects he had in view, and he had devised a plan 
which, as he conceived, would alike ensure the 
raising of the siege of Belfort, would compel the 
besiegers to draw off from Paris, and would, perhaps, 
cause the invasion to collapse. Fired with this 
vision of splendour, he had taken on himself, with- 
out consulting a single French chief, to order Bour- 
baki to break up from his camps, and to move, not 
directly on the Seine, but into Franche-Comte, far to 
the east • and this operation, which was to be con- 
ducted rapidly, and carefully concealed, was to be 
combined with a general advance of the 24th corps 
from Lyons and the south, and of a considerable 
detachment led by Cremer ; these bodies uniting 
with Bourbaki, and joining in a decisive movement 
against Werder, standing alone in their path, and 
thence into the heart of Alsace. By these means 
Werder would be overpowered, attacked by an im- 
mensely larger force ; the siege of Belfort would be 
abandoned ; and Bourbaki, having seized and held 
the long line of the German communications with the 
Rhine, would force Moltke to give up the siege of 
Paris and to endeavour to gain contact with Ger- 
many again, and would, perhaps, obtain most 


important successes. Garibaldi was to cover the great 
marcli on the left ; and the 25th corps was to make 
demonstrations on the Loire which would probably 
detain Prince Frederick Charles round Orleans. 

This plan of Gambetta was as ill-conceived, at 
least, as that which sent the Army of Chalons to 
its fate. A great concentric movement of the pro- 
vincial armies was the only rational way to relieve 
Paris ; this was an eccentric movement, which 
could hardly succeed, and which would, perhaps, 
lead to immense disasters. As a question of pure 
strategy, the direction of Bourbaki and his Army, 
to the east, would, almost certainly, enable Prince 
Frederick Charles and the Grand Duke to attack 
Chanzy, and to defeat him, greatly reinforced as 
they were ; and even if Bourbaki, Cremer, and the 
corps from the South, should effect their junction 
in Franche-Comte, it would be a waste of time to 
attempt to raise the siege of Belfort. ISTor was it 
obvious that Werder would be crushed ; and even 
if all these results were attained, the occupation of 
Alsace, and the seizure by the French of the com- 
munications of the enemy, on that line, would not 
even probably force the Germans away from Paris, 
and make them abandon the investing circle, for 
they were masters of the railways and roads that 
led into Lorraine from the Palatinate and the 
Rhenish Provinces, and besides, they could obtain 
supplies in France, that would suffice until the fall of 
the city was at hand. The stroke at the communi- 
cations, in a word, would be at too remote a point 

z 2 

340 MOLTKE. 

to prove decisive, or even important ; ^ and, on the 
other hand, the operation would, from first to last, 
be inevitably pregnant with many perils, especially 
if Garibaldi should not be able to throw back the 
forces, which might be despatched, from the external 
zone, on the flank and rear of Bourbaki's army as 
he approached Alsace. This strategy, therefore, 
was, even in theory, false; but the question was 
not one of pure strategy ; it was that of the 
execution of an ambitious design, under existing 
conditions well-nigh impossible, and all but certain 
to prove disastrous. The means of transporting 
the First Army of the Loire into Franche-Comte 
were Yerj imperfect ; nearly all the troops to be 
engaged in an enterprise which, in order to have a 
chance of success, required soldiers inured to war, 
equal to forced marches, and well organized, were 
little more than an assemblage of recruits ; the 
movement was to be made under an Arctic climate, 
in a mountainous, intricate, and barren country; 
and no preparations had been made beforehand to 
secure for the great host that was to be combined, 
the munitions, the food, and the other supplies 
absolutely necessary to enable it to march or to 
fight. To commit rude levies, in circumstances 
like these, to a task beyond their powers, and itself 
most dangerous, was recklessness that deserves 
the severest censure.^ 

^ See on this point Hamley's " Operations of War," p. 128. Ed. 

^ Writers have been found, who have compared this project of 


In the last week of December, the First Army of 
the Loire, the 18th and 20th corps, followed by the 
15th, had set off on its march to Franche-Comte. 
Gambetta had all the advantage of a surprise,^ for 
the Grerman commanders, as had so often happened, 
had lost sight of their enemy's movements ; and 
they thought Bourbaki was about to advance on 
Paris. But the difficulties of the enterprise were 
apparent from the first : the railways between the 
Loire and the Saone were inadequate to convey 
large masses of men ; the troops had begun to 
suffer from cold and privations, and hundreds sank 
under contagious diseases ; and the progress of the 
Army was slow in the extreme. Meanwhile, the 
G-rand Duke and Prince Frederick Charles had left 
their camps to assail Chanzy, the adversary most 
dangerous to the arms of Germany. Their armies 
were now about 90,000 strong ; but — a strategic 
mistake which might have cost them dear — they 
left a large detachment to observe the Loire, being 
ignorant that Bourbaki was far distant ; and they 

Gambetta to Napoleon's magnificent conception of the Campaign 
of IbOO. It resembled it as the fancy of a lunatic resembles the 
ordered imagination of Dante. Of the execution of the two plana 
not a word need be said : Gambetta had nothing ready ; Napoleon's 
preparations were matured with the greatest care. For myself, 
when apprised of Bourbaki's fatal march, I telegraphed to the 
correspondent before referred to, " This will be another Sedan." 

' Surprises, in these days of telegraphs, are probably more 
difficult than they were in the age of Napoleon. Gambetta, 
nevertheless, surprised the Germans on two and even three 
occasions. The "plans d'avocat " have been rightly condemned; 
but justice should be done to a man of real genius. 

342 MOLTKE. 

marclied on Le Mans, in tlie first days of the new 
year, converging against Chanzy, with some 75,000 
men, by a double movement from Chartres and 
Orleans. They had hoped to surprise and over- 
whelm their enemy; but they were disappointed 
in this from the outset ; and another fine passage 
of arms was the result. 

Chanzy, we have seen, had fallen back on Le 
Mans after the memorable stand he had made on 
the Loire. Le Mans is a strategic point of the 
greatest value, for a series of railways meets on the 
spot, especially from the north, the south, and the 
west, by which reinforcements can be easily brought 
up ; and it afibrds admirable positions for defence. 
The French chief had led his army to the place in 
the hope of strengthening it greatly with new levies, 
and of ultimately directing it to the relief of Paris, 
when it had been made equal to renewed efforts. 
He had expected 60,000 men to join him ; but these 
numbers had dwindled down to about 15,000, for 
the Army of the West was still incomplete ; and the 
recruits, drawn for the most part from Brittany, 
and largely composed of peasants of La Vendee, 
were not inclined to leave their native province, 
and had traditional feelings against a French Ee- 
public. The Second Army of the Loire, however, 
had been made about 90,000 or even 100,000 strong ; 
Chanzy had placed it in positions around Le Mans, 
which he had fortified with forethought and skill ; 
and he stood, with the mass of his forces, on either 
bank of the Huisne, ready to encounter the German 


attack. But he eschewed, as always, a passive 
defence ; he had, we have said, sent flying cohimns, 
before his retreat, as far as the Loir ; and these 
detachments now filled the tract between the Braye, 
the Huisne, and the Loir, in order to confront and 
throw back the enemy. As the Grand Duke and 
Prince Frederick Charles advanced through the 
intricate region that extends between IS^ogont Le 
Eotru, and Vendome, and ends, in an angle, at Le 
Mans, they had to fight their way through bodies 
of foes that held them in check, still falling back ; 
and it became evident that they had no chance of 
taking their able adversary unawares. A long 
succession of combats followed between the 4th 
and the 9th of January ; the Germans steadily made 
their way forward by La Ferte Bernard, St. Calais, 
and Bouloire, drawing towards each other on 
Chanzy's lines ; and the young French soldiers, 
as was sure to happen, showed signs of weakness and 
loss of heart, as they retreated before their trained 
antagonists. The invaders, nevertheless, were 
greatly harassed, and suffered no inconsiderable 
loss, as they toiled through the district of thickets 
and streams, of infrequent roads, of passes and 
defiles, which divides the Loir from the Sarthe 
and the Huisne ; and the mitrailleuse, an inferior 
weapon, was made to do good service, for the first 
time, in this close and difficult country. The 
general result of their first operations was that 
Chanzy's levies had been worsted, and part of his 
right wing had been isolated, and was unable to 

344 MOLTKE. 

join the main army. But the Germans had also 
been severely stricken ; ^ and the 10th corps of 
Prince Frederick Charles was considerably, in the 
rear, on his left. 

By the evening of the 9th of January, the 
Germans had converged on Chanzy's positions be- 
fore Le Mans. The army of the Grand Duke, called 
again the 13th corps, comprising the divisions he 
had led for months, stood on the right, on the 
eastern bank of the Huisne ; the centre, the 3rd and 
the 9th corps, held the main road that led from 
Vendome to Le Mans, but the left, the 10th corps, 
we have seen, was distant. The leaders, on both 
sides, had wished to assume the offensive, but 
Chanzy, who had acutely felt the growing demorali- 
zation of his immature troops, took care to be the 
first to attack, in order to restore in some degree their 
confidence. On the lOth^ another succession of 
engagements took place ; at the centre the French 
were driven fairly back, and the 3rd corps stormed 
the hamlet of Change almost on the verge of 
Chanzy's lines. But on the German right little 
progress was made ; the Grand Duke, indeed, suc- 
cessfully crossed the Huisne, and placed part of his 

' "La Deuxieme Armee de La Loire," 307 : ''Tons les ren- 
seignements recueillis depuis, de la bouche ineme des officiers de 
I'etat major prussien pendant leur sejour au Mans, confirnient 
I'etat de decouragement auquel cette lutte opiniatre et pied a pied 
avait reduit leurs troupes." 

^ As in the case with all the operations of Chanzy, the " Prus- 
sian Staff History," Part ii. vol. ii. p. 139- 2 19, contains an imperfect 
and misleading description of this episode of the war. The real 


troops on the western bank ; but he was held in 
check by the enemy in his front, and he failed to 
execute the turning movement against the French 
left which had been his purpose. By nightfall 
Chanzy had drawn in his hard-pressed army within 
its lines, and made ready for a great fight on the 
morrow. His divisions, covered on part of their 
front by entrenchments, batteries, and obstacles of 
all kinds, affording a vantage ground to the fire of 
his infantry, were extended in a line of about ten 
miles in length, from the confluence of the Sarthe 
and the Huisne, to the villages of Chanteloup and 
Lombron, north of Le Mans, on the western bank 
of the Huisne ; and they formed a semicircle 
around Le Mans, shielding the ancient town from the 
enemy's efforts. Chanzy's right, composed of part 
of his 16th corps — part, we have seen, had not come 
into line — held the roads that meet at Pontlieu, 
before Le Mans, the certain avenues of attack ; and 
he had reinforced this wing with a body of Gardes 
Mobiles, despatched lately to his camps from Brit- 
tany. The 17th corps, his centre, was ranged 
along a series of uplands, known by the name of 
Auvours, the key of his position in front ; and his 
left wing, the 21st corps, with other divisions, was 
placed on the western bank of the Huisne, to make 
head against the Grand Duke's forces. Chanzy 

character of the battle of Le Mans especially is not placed correctly 
before the reader. The narrative of Chanzy, " La Deuxicrae 
Armee de la Loire," pp. 223-371, is more complete and far more 
trustworthy. It deserves attentive study. 

346 MOLTKE. 

firmly held the passages of the Huisne, where his 
centre came in contact with his left ; and his troops 
could support each other along the whole line, and 
had facilities for making counter-attacks. He had 
from 80,000 to 90,000 men in his hands, with be- 
tween 300 and 400 guns. 

The German leaders disposed of about 70,000 
men, and rather more than 300 guns, to attack the 
French levies in this position. The general idea 
of their operations was this : the Grand Duke was 
to turn the left wing of Chanzy, by a great out- 
flanking movement west of the Huisne, while Prince 
Frederick Charles was to assail the French centre in 
front. On the morning of the 11th the German 
columns marched on the points selected for attack ; 
and the 3rd Corps, always foremost in the fight, 
which, as we have said, had seized Change, advanced 
boldly against the heights of Auvours. The false 
tactics of Worth were, however, repeated ; the effort 
of the 3rd Corps was premature ; the troops were 
exposed to their foes, so to speak, piecemeal, and 
the resistance of the French was so successful, 
that the 9th and even the 10th Corps, still in the 
rear, were summoned to take part in the frontal 
attack. The battle raged on for several hours ; 
the spell of Chanzy's example and presence inspired 
his lieutenants aud his best troops ; he had terrified 
the weak and cowardly with severe menaces ; the 
position of Auvours was taken and then retaken ; 
and ultimately it remained in the defenders' power. 
Meanwhile the Grand Duke had been baffled ; his 


divisions proved unable to pass Chant eloup and 
Lombron, on the extreme French left ; and the turn- 
ing movement was stopped on this part of the line. 
By nightfall the French still held the positions they 
had fought for throughout a fiery trial ; and Chanzy, 
who had been the soul of a masterly defence, direct- 
ing his troops to every threatened point, and taking 
the offensive when the chances offered, looked 
forward at last to victory at hand.^ Ere long, 
however, a disastrous incident changed the issue of 
the battle at the last moment. The 10th Corps, 
advancing towards Pontlieu, overwhelmed the Breton 
Mobiles in their path ; the important point of La 
Tuilerie was lost ; and Chanzy's right centre was 
pierced through by an enemy fast approaching Le 
Mans. Jaureguibbery, now the chief of the 16th 
Corps, as gallant a seaman as ever trod a deck, made 
a desperate effort to throw the Germans back ; but 
the 10th Corps stubbornly held its ground, and 
though the French remained in their camps through 
the night, the position of Chanzy had become unten- 

It had now become necessary to retreat from 
Le Mans, and to resist the invaders on another line 
of defence. Had the Germans retained their effici- 

1 "L'acfcion dura sur taute la ligne jusqu'a six heures du soir. 
La nuit etait venue, nous etions restes maitres de toutes nos 
positions, de ce cote comme au plateau d'Auvours, et sur la voie 
droite de i'Huisne. Notre seul echec serieux avait ete I'evacuation 
momentanee d'Auvours, mais il avait ete rapideraent et brillamment 
reparee." — La Deuxicme Armee de la Loire, pp. 318-19. Not a 
word of this appears in the Prussian accounts. 

348 MOLTKE. 

ency and power, they ought to have annihilated the 
defeated army ; but they had been hardly stricken in 
the late battle ;^ they had suffered from privations 
and forced marches, and their pursuit of the enemy 
was slow and feeble.'* Thousands of Chanzy's recruits, 
indeed, disbanded, and he lost nearly a fourth part 
of his levies, but he drew off the mass of his army 
intact, and except a combat in the streets of Le Mans, 
and two or three insignificant skirmishes, he was 
scarcely molested in his retreat. Always steady in 
his purpose to relieve Paris, he intended at first to 
march on Alen^on, where he would be nearer the 
capital than at Le Mans, and he probably could have 
attained his object, though the Prussian staff has 
condemned this strategy.' Gambetta, however, 
directed him to diverge westwards, in order to 
obtain reinforcements at hand, and to avoid an 

1 " The Prussian Staff History," Part ii. vol.ii. p. 200, 205, 210, 
cannot conceal how much the Germans had suffered : " The Grand 
Duke had but few full battalions at his disposal ; the exhaustion 
of his troops was great. . . . The effective of the 3rd Corps had 
become extremely weak, the loss on the last day, especially in 
officers, having been considerable. . . . Many of the companies 
were commanded by sergeant-majors," 

2 " La Deuxieme Armee de la Loire," pp. 347, 367 : — 
L'ennemi ne s'etait montre entreprenant nulle part. ... lis 
avaient du reste considerablement souffert pendant les trois 
derniers jours ; leurs soldats etaient epuises. . . . Ces instructions 
furent executees en tout point et sans que l'ennemi cherchat de 
nouveau a inquieter la retraite." 

3 "Prussian Staff History," Part ii. vol. ii. p. 200. This view 
is, no doubt, in theory right ; and Chanzy was aware of the danger 
of. a march on Alen9on. But he probably would have reached 
the place ; the pursuit was so ineffectual. 


operation apparently rasli : and by the 16tli January 
lie had reached the Mayenne, and had taken posi- 
tions around Laval, another important strategic 
point, where he could easily receive aid from the 
north and the west. He was ere long strengthened 
by the 19th Corps, another of Gambetta's new 
creations ; and, in a few days, he had to a great 
extent, reorganized and restored the Second Army 
of the Loire, with characteristic skill and energy. 
From Laval he still turned an eye on Paris, hoping 
against hope that he might yet reach the Seine ; 
but though disasters were thickening all round, he 
continued to insist that the fall of the capital ought 
not to involve the submission of France, and he 
prepared himself for renewed efforts. Meanwhile 
the German leaders had given up a pursuit which 
had really been one only in name. The Grand 
Duke had been sent off into Normandy, the 
movements of the enemy in the north requiring 
assistance to be given to the First Army. The 
apparition, too, of the 25th Corps on the Loire had 
compelled Prince Frederick Charles to detach the 
9th to observe and keep back this new hostile 
force ; and Chanzy at Laval was only confronted 
by the 3rd and 10th Corps of the Second 
Array, not sufficiently strong to venture to 

In this brief and indecisive contest Chanzy had 
withstood trained and well-organized armies, which, 
but for the detachment left behind at Orleans, 
might have been nearly equal to his own in numbers, 

350 MOLTKE. 

with an army composed, in the main, of recruits. 
He had been defeated, no doubt, in a pitched battle, 
but the defeat only fell short of a victory ; and, 
after his admirable defence of Le Mans, he had 
effected his retreat, and had been scarcely pursued, 
if panic and desertion had deprived him of some 
20,000 of his young soldiers. The result does him 
the highest honour ; the strategy and tactics of his 
antagonists, in truth, were very far from good, 
especially on the day of Le Mans ; and his superiority 
as a leader became again manifest. But he had 
not the less been forced away from Paris ; he had 
not a chance of relieving the capital now; the 
object of Moltke had been gained ; the Grrand Duke 
and Prince Frederick Charles had advanced from 
the external zone, and had driven their ablest adver- 
sary back, and they held a central position and 
stood on interior lines against Chanzy and his army 
on the Mayenne. 

We pass on to the theatre of war in the 
north, where the ubiquitous contest was being 
still prolonged. After the indecisive battle on the 
Hallue, Faidherbe had fallen back, we have seen, 
northwards; and Peronne, the "virgin fortress" 
of the seventeenth century, had been besieged by 
part of the First Army. In the first days of 
January, Faidherbe advanced again, perhaps in the 
hope of relieving the place, which gave him a 
passage over the Somme, and on the 3rd he en- 
countered a hostile force at Bapaume, not far to 
the south of Arras. The French were largely 
superior in numbers, and endeavoured to surround 


and overwhelm their enemies ; but the Germans 
made a stubborn defence, entrenched in the villajres 
around Bapaume, and the combat remained for 
hours doubtful. At last, however, the assailants 
fairly won the day ; their adversaries drew off from 
Bapaume, and signs of weakness and fear, it is 
said,^ appeared not only among the troops, but 
even among some officers in command. The French, 
nevertheless, were so exhausted — a common failins: 
with boyish soldiers — that they could not follow up 
their success ; and Bapaume was ultimately re- 
gained by the enemy. Meanwhile Peronne had ere 
long fallen ; the Germans did not attempt a regular 
siege, but the old and small fortress was quickly 
reduced, as was seen repeatedly in the war, by 
bombardment, a cruel but effective method, in the 
case of fortresses of this kind. 

A greater and more important battle was fought 
on the 19th of January. The last days of the 
great siege had come, and Gambetta entreated 
Faidherbe to make a diversion in the north in the 
hope of assisting a final sortie from the falling 
capital. The French commander thought that his 
best course was to threaten the German communi- 
cations eastwards, and he marched with his two 
corps on St. Quentin, a name of ill-omen in the 
annals of France. By this time Manteuffel had 
been replaced by Goeben, in the command of the 

1 Faidherbe quotes from a Berlin correspondent of the Daily 
Telegraph, referring to the engagement at Bapaume: "General 
von Goeben . . . demands from the commanders of regiments a list 
of officers who fled, that they may be instantly cashiered." 

352 MOLTKE. 

First Army, and tlie new chief , a very able man, 
followed his adversary along both banks of the 
Somme. An opportunity, perhaps,^ was given to 
Faidherbeto turn back and try to defeat his pur- 
suers in detail, but probably he felb that his rude 
levies were not equal to an operation of the kind, 
and he was close to St. Quentin on the 18th. Groe- 
ben, however, was at hand and ready to attack ; 
and Faidherbe had no choice but to accept battle in 
defensive positions around the town. Moltke had 
long ceased to apprehend danger from attacks made 
by the Parisian armies ; he had diminished, we have 
seen, the besieging forces, and he had just sent a 
detachment from the Army of the Meuse, to co- 
operate with Goeben in the impending conflict. 
The opposing armies were nearly equal in numbers, 
about 32,500 Germans to 40,000 French ; and the 
result, therefore, was almost assured. Faidherbe 
indeed, showed skill and resource, and his levies 
made a gallant defence ; but superior discipline 
and training prevailed, and he was forced to retreat 
again on the stronghold of the north, after losing 
6000 or 7000 men. His attempt to give aid to 
Paris had, in a word, failed ; and in his case, as in 
that of Chanzy, Moltke had successfully accom- 
plished his task. The First Army had issued from 
the external zone, and driven away the approaching 
enemy ; and Moltke, from the centre where he 
stood at Versailles, had been able to throw back 

1 " Prussian Staff History," Part ii. vol. ii. p. 263. Chanzy 
would probably have made the attempt. 


the provincial levies at another point of the vast 
circumference, on which they were compelled to 
advance. It should be added that the war in the 
north came to an end after the fight at St. Quentin ; 
the Grand Duke, who had arrived at Rouen, and 
the First Army effectually kept down resistance 
between the Somme and the Seine. 

We turn to the east to follow the course of Gam- 
betta's ambitious, but ill-starred, enterprise.^ The 
First Army of the Loire, pursued by no enemy, but 
retarded, on its way, and already weakened, had 
accomplished the first part of its mission ; it had 
come into line with Cremer's troops and vnth the 
24th corps, under Bressoles, of the south ; and by 
the 2nd of January, the uniting forces were ex- 
tended upon a long line, stretching from Dijon to 
Auxonne and Besan9on. Bourbaki was now at 
the head of 150,000 men, and he advanced on a 
broad front, through Franche-Oomte, to attack 
Werder, and to raise the siege of Belfort. The 
German chief was not 50,000 strong, and evacuated 
Dijon, Gray, and Vesoul ; and the French com- 
mander began to look forward with hope to success, 
with his immensely more numerous forces. The 

1 The memorable and important operations of the belligerent 
armies in the east, most unfortunate for France, but honourable in 
the extreme to Germany, are fully, and on the whole, fairly 
described in the " Prussian Staff History," Part ii. vol. ii. 287, 361, 
and Part ii. vol. iii. 1, 179. I am not aware that any of the French 
commanders have written on the subject. But the evidence of 
Bourbaki, and of Generals Borel and Clinchant given in the 
Enquete Parlementaire, is very valuable and full of interest. 

A a 

354 MOLTKE. 

march of his army, however, became very slow, as 
it reached the wooded and hilly region between the 
Saone, the Ognon, and the Doubs ; the left wing 
nnder Cremer was far in the rear ; the line of march 
was already crowded with disbanded men, and 
perishing horses, and ominous signs of distress were 
apparent. Nevertheless Fortune treacherously 
smiled at the outset on the ill-conceived adventure. 
Bourbaki encountered part of the army of Werder 
at Yillersexel on the Ognon, on the 9th of January ; 
the French levies, encouraged by their superior 
numbers, fought well and threw the enemy back ; 
and after a long and well-contested struggle, the 
Germans retreated, beyond dispute, beaten.^ 

A great opportunity, at this moment, was possi- 
bly afforded to the French chief. Werder had 
hastily moved northwards ; Yillersexel is a point on 
the main road to Belfort, hardly three marches 
distant, and Bourbaki was as near the fortress as 
his defeated enemy. Had Bourbaki, therefore, 
pressed boldly forward, he might, perhaps, have 
raised the siege of Belfort before Werder could have 
interfered ; and success, such as this, would have 
been most important. He made, however, a long 
halt of four days, and though his " inactivity " has 
been censured by the Prussian Staff,^ his army, ill- 

1 The " Prussian Staff History," Part ii. vol. ii. 318, does not 
admit this defeat, but it cannot be really questioned. Bourbaki 
deposed at the Enquete Parlementaire : — " L'ennemi fut mis en 
complete deroute, et laissa un grand nombre de prisonniers dans nos 

2 ''Prussian Staff History," Part ii. vol. ii. 322. 


provided, and depending for supplies on the rail- 
way line from Besan^on only, appears to have been 
unable to move.^ The alarm of Werder was, never- 
theless, great ; he contemplated, perhaps, a further 
retreat ; but Moltke, taking the bolder and wiser 
course, sent a message from Versailles by the tele- 
graph, directing his lieutenant to " await attack, 
and to accept battle in the strong positions"^ 
before Belfort. "Werder, accordingly, marched 
across the front of the French army still fixed to 
its camps ; and he found the point of vantage he 
sought behind the rocky banks of the Lisaine, a 
small river just west of Belfort. The position was 
one of great natural strength, though capable of 
being turned on both flanks. Three eminences 
protected a defender's front, the chateau and little 
town of Montbeliard afforded strong shelter on the 
left, and along the line from Hericourt, to the right 

' Moltke had foreseen that the movements of Bo^^rbaki must 
be retarded from this cause. " Prussian Staff History," Part ii. 
vol. ii. appendix, 168: "The operations of the enemy's forces, owing 
to generally defective organization of the commissariat and ammu- 
nition train, are tied to the railways." General Derrccagaix " La 
Guerre Moderne,"ii. 331, acquits Bourbaki of making an unneces- 
sary delay, and remarks : " Le general Bourbaki avait alors a sur- 
monter de grandes difficultes pour le ravittaillement de son armce ; 
et craignant de s'eloigner du chemin de fer de Besan9on a Mont- 
beliard qui etait sa base d'approvisionnements, il fut force, pour 
avoir des vivres de perdre les 10, 11, 12, et 13 Janvier." Still 
Bourbaki did not lay stress on this cause of his halt before the 
Enquete Parlementaire ; and possibly he might have done more 
than he did. 

2 <^' Prussian Staff History," Part ii. vol. ii. appendix, 176. 

A a 2 

356 • MOLTKE. 

a series of villages, of farm-houses, and of petty 
hamlets, present formidable obstacles to attack. 
Werder fortified this position with skill and care ; 
heavy guns were detached from the siege of Belfort, 
and placed in battery at vulnerable points, and 
precautions were taken to secure cover for the 
troops, and to give free and ample scope to their 
fire. He awaited the attack of an enemy threefold 
in numbers, with some 45,000 footmen and 150 

The battle, or, rather, the series of battles, that 
followed,^ were not without honour to France, but 
honourable in the highest degree to Germany. 
After preliminary skirmishes of no importance, 
Bourbaki advanced, on the 15th January, to attack 
the Germans in their strong lines of defence. He 
was familiar with the scene of the approaching con- 
flict and with the numberless difficulties in his path ; 
and his plan was to assail the enemy in front with 
the 15th, 24th, and 20th corps, on the space between 
Montbeliard and Hericourt, and imitating the ma- 
noeuvre of Gravelotte, to turn his right at Changey 
and Chenebier with the 18th corps and Cremer's 
divisions. The French, animated by their late 
success, fell boldly on, and made their way into 
Montbeliard ; and though unable to force the 

^ The description in the " Prussian Staff History," Part ii. vol. 
ii. 331, 358, of the battles on the Lisaine should be compared with 
the elaborate and exact account of General Derrecagaix, " La 
Guerre Moderne," ii. 330, 362, and with Bourbaki's evidence at 
the Emiuete Parlemeutaire. 


centre of Werder, they kept tlie Germans all the 
day engaged in their formidable positions around 
Hericoiirt. The great out-flanking movement, on 
which all depended, was, however, delayed, and 
attempted too late ; and both armies rested on the 
ground they occupied, Bourbaki expecting great 
things from the morrow. The battle raged along 
the whole line on the 16th, and the assailants, swept 
by a destructive fire, suffered cruelly as they en- 
deavoured, in vain, to press the frontal attack with 
their superior numbers. But the turning movement 
at the French left was successful; Werder's right 
was out-flanked, and fell away defeated ; Chenebier 
was occupied by the troops of Cremer ; the road to 
Belfort was laid open, and the situation for the 
Germans became critical. Meantime, however, the 
defence of Hericourt had proved disastrous to the 
young French soldiers flung desperately against 
impassable lines. Cremer, in no sense a capable 
chief, was held in check by a demonstration on his 
left, and did not follow up the success he had gained, 
and, hard pressed as they were, the Germans main- 
tained their ground. The difference was then con- 
spicuously seen between a real army and an assem- 
blage of levies. Bourbaki' s troops were utterly 
worn out, and brought to a stand by the incessant 
fighting. A Council of War pronounced against a 
renewal of the attack, and an immediate retreat was 
declared necessary. The French columns, weakened 
by heavy losses, dispirited, and starved by hunger 
aud cold, drew silently off from the fatal field ; and 

358 MOLTKE. 

though not pursued by their wearied foes, became 
almost a fugitive horde, as they toiled painfully on 
their way to Besan^on. The attempt to raise the 
siege of Belfort had failed, and Gambetta's project 
had come to nought from the outset. 

Bourbaki was not a chief of the highest order, 
and he had little faith in an army of recruits ; and 
Cremer had shown no resource in this protracted 
conflict. It is useless, however, to conjecture 
whether the French generals could have done more 
in the battles of Hericourt, as they have been 
called ; the broad results need alone be glanced at. 
On the Lisaine, as at Le Mans and St. Quentin, the 
external zone had kept back the enemy ; the pur- 
pose of Moltke had been fulfilled, and, in the case 
of Bourbaki, it would be well for France should his 
army escape an immense disaster. Through the 
successive defeats of the provincial levies, Paris was 
left isolated and without external aid, and the 
besiegers had made, before this time, the active 
attack they had long prepared. On the 27th of 
December the German batteries opened fire on the 
highlands of Avron, and the works on the spot, 
hastily thrown up, were made untenable after a 
short bombardment. The besiegers turned then on 
the eastern part of the city, and a tempest of shot, 
and shell rained for many days on the forts of 
Nogent, E-osny, and Noisy, and on the long line of 
the improvised defences extending from the Marne 
to the table-land of Eomainville. The southern 
front, how^ever, became the main point of attack. 


This, we have seen, was the vulnerable side, and 
the exposed forts of Issy, Vanves, and Montrouge, 
with the redoubts and entrenchments along the 
space between, were swept for more than a fortnight 
by the concentrated fire of heavy guns placed on 
the heights commanding the enceinte and the capi- 
tal beyond. An attempt was next made to destroy 
St. Denis, and the western front, in fact, was alone 
spared, covered by the great fortress of Valerien. 
These attacks, however, altogether failed; the 
injuries done to the forts and the defensive zone, 
trivial in themselves, were easily repaired. The 
losses of the besieged were very small ; two or 
three of the forts, chiefly manned by seamen, made 
an admirable and most skilful defence, and the 
batteries of the besieged, as the struggle progressed, 
had a marked and daily increasing advantage. The 
siege train of the Germans, immense as it was, was 
not nearly sufficient for the gigantic attack, and 
the operations of their engineers, besides, gave little 
proof of science or resource. 

Experiments meanwhile were tried to affright 
the world of the city into submission. Moltke 
had been averse to bombarding Paris. '^ He pro- 
bably foresaw the attempt would fail, and Bismarck ^ 
had been of the same opinion. But Grermanyhad made 

^ " I should not wish to be in a hurry to adopt the last cruel 
alternative of a regular bombardment." (Moltke to his brother 
Adolf, " Letters," ii. 61. English Translation,) 

2 " On ne bombarde pas une ville comme Paris, mais peut-etre, 
cependant, nous faudra-t-il, a, un moment donne, en venir a cette 
dernicre extremite," was a remark made by Bismarck to the aide- 

360 MOLTKE. 

a great national effort, and felt the savage passions 
of a war of races ; and tlie German commanders 
were forced to leave nothing undone to quell the 
resistance of France at its fountain-head. While 
the forts and the enceinte were being attacked, the 
city was ravaged with flights of shells, and the 
storm of missiles raged day after day, carrying 
devastation and death in its course. The noblest 
edifices seemed marked out for destruction : the 
churches, the hospitals, the historic buildings — the 
glory of centuries — which adorn Paris, were wrecked 
and marred in too many instances, and the pitiless 
volleys crashed through peaceful roofs, or broke in 
fury in stately squares and streets. Yet this in- 
human and reckless warfare, without a parallel in 
a civilized age, that recalled the onslaught of the 
barbarians on Rome, and that might have annihilated 
treasures above price of science and art, the delight 
of mankind, proved, as was to be expected, utterly 
fruitless. Two or three hundred inoffensive towns- 
men were slain, and considerable material damage 
was done ; but the bombardment did not hasten by 
a single hour the impending fall of the suffering 
city ; and this alone is enough to stamp it with 
disgrace. On the contrary, it excited indignation 
and wrath, and roused the population to make new 
efforts ; and it has left memories behind which will 
not be forgotten as long as Paris retains life and a 
heart. The attack, in truth, whether on the armed 

de-camp of Bazaine before referred to. — " Guerre de 1870-1," 
p. 221. 


Emperor of Germany. 

To face page 361. 


defences, or on the city, rising from their midst, 
only showed how prodigious is the strength of the 
position given by nature to Paris ; how powerful 
her fortifications were, even against the ordnance 
of modern times, and how impotent were the 
besiegers' efforts.^ 

The exasperation caused by the bombardment 
led to an angry and general demand that another 
and final sortie should be made. The Government, 
yielding to popular clamour, weakly consented, 
against its real wishes, for every general felt the 
attempt to be hopeless. The points selected for 
attack were, perhaps, the strongest in the whole 
circle of the German lines ; and possibly in this 
instance also the multitude overbore Tro^hu. 
King William had just been proclaimed Emperor, 
to the delight of the whole Teutonic race, in the 
magnificent hall which had mirrored the splendours 
for a century of the Bourbon monarchy ; and this 
exhibition, which may yet prove an illustration of 

1 The "Prussian Staff History," Part ii. vol. ii. 362, 390, describes 
very imperfectly and uncandidly the bombardment of Paris. The 
elaborate account of General Ducrot, '•' La Defense de I'aris," iii. 
232, 312; and iv. 1, 27 ; and the excellent volume of M. Viollet 
le Due, should be carefully perused. See these works especially 
as regards the bad quality of the German offensive works ; the 
evident deficiency of the engineers in scientific knowledge ; the 
complete failure of the attacks on the forts, the enceinte, and the 
city ; and the feelings of hatred and anger they provoked. These 
views are confirmed by many English eye-witnesses. Major 
Clarke, " Fortification," 63, remarks : " In spite of their in- 
numerable defects, the Paris defences, built before the revolution 
in artillery, were an unexpected triumph for fortificutiou." 

362 MOLTKE. 

the irony of Fate, had so irritated Paris before the 
event, that a cry had arisen to break out at Ver- 
sailles. The National Guards insisted that they 
should take a principal part in a last struggle, and 
on the 19th of January a huge array of troops, 
levies, and National Guards was assembled, under 
the guns of Valerien, in the first peninsula formed 
by the bends of the Seine, to attack the besiegers 
from the space that extends between St. Cloud and 
Malmaison to Versailles beyond. The advance of 
the columns, however, had been very slow, for there 
were only two bridges to cross the river. The 
enemy had had ample time to make preparations and 
guard against surprise and, as we have said, the 
German defences at this part of their front were 
formidable in the extreme. The battle was fierce, 
and protracted for hours, but the ultimate issue 
was never doubtful. The French, indeed, gained 
partial success. Vinoy, on the left, forced the hos- 
tile outposts at St. Cloud ; Ducrot penetrated into 
Malmaison on the right ; and Buzenval, in the 
centre, was stormed and occupied. But the attack 
was broken against the triple folds of the entrench- 
ments forming the main defence; the assailants, 
100,000 fighting men at least, were crowded upon 
a narrow front that did not give space for 25,000. 
Unable to deploy and to make their numbers felt, 
they were struck down by the destructive fire of ene- 
mies sheltered and almost concealed ; and the scenes 
that had been witnessed at Villiers were repeated 
with far more disastrous results. After repelling a 


hostile counter-attack and vainly displaying fruit- 
less courage, the French gradually drew off from 
the field, and despair had soon mastered the 
defeated army, little accustomed to the stern reali- 
ties of war. The bridges and roads were choked 
by the broken masses hurrying away in precipitate 
flight ; order, discipline, and military bearing were 
lost, and the spectacle of its own defenders filled 
the city with affright. 

This disaster provoked a movement in Paris like 
that which had been seen before, when the sortie of 
the 21st of December had failed. The Press of the 
rabble teemed with angry invectives, clubs were 
harangued by orators of the mob, denouncing the 
men in office as knaves and traitors ; a cry went 
forth that the citizens, in a mass, with their wives 
and children, should march out and fight, and folly 
and fury reigned in too many places. A partial 
rising of the dregs of society was ominous too of 
impending perils, and the foul creatures, who were 
soon to strew whole quarters of the city with ashes 
and blood, began to make their evil influence felt, 
by villainous appeals to patriotic passion. The 
Grovernment, terrified, perplexed, and hopeless, made 
no attempt to exert its authority, and Trochu was 
removed from supreme command, a scapegoat, 
indeed, but not unjustly deemed to have been 
unequal to a most arduous task. Nevertheless, 
order and obedience to law continued to prevail 
through the world of Paris, and this though the 
sufferings of all classes of the population were almost 

364 MOLTKE. 

beyond endurance. By this time the store of pro- 
visions had dwindled down to the supply of a few 
days, the whole of the citizens had been put on 
rations, the most odious kind of food was a 
welcome repast, death revelled in the train of ever- 
present want, and every night darkness, that might 
be felt, fell like a pall over the scenes once gay with 
exuberant life, and brilliant pleasure, or was made 
more fearful by the distant gleams that marked the 
lines of the besiegers' watch-fires. The spirit of 
resignation and self-sacrifice kept, however, the 
community together, in the trial ; noble examples 
of charity and piety were made, and the wit of 
Paris flashed out to the last, as troops of urchins 
mockingly offered for sale fragments and splinters 
of the enemy's impotent shells. But the end of the 
long defence had come ; the great city, still un- 
subdued, was forced to yield to famine. Bismarck 
and Favre, the minister, had two or three interviews, 
and the terms of the capitulation were arranged, on 
the 26th of January, 1871. The regular troops, 
including the Gardes Mobiles, the marines and sea- 
men, laid down their arms ; the forts were occupied 
by German garrisons, and the immense material of 
war on the spot passed into the hands of the 
exulting conquerors. Meanwhile an armistice of 
three weeks was agreed to, a National Assembly 
was to be convened, and France was to pronounce 
on the question of war or peace. Two provisions 
of the negotiations require notice ; ^ for reasons 
' This exception, Avliich involved tlie ruin of Bouibaki's army, 


never fully explained, tlie theatre of military 
operations in the east was still to remain a scene of 
hostilities, and the National Guard, too largely 
composed of elements of the most dangerous kind, 
and controlled only by officers chosen by itself, 
was, at the instance of Favre, allowed to retain its 

The defence of Paris will form, for all time, a 
conspicuous feature in the history of the world. The 
military operations, indeed, did not give proof of 
originality or peculiar skill, and they were marked 
by the want of steadfastness, and the divided 
counsels, so fatal to France in this part of the war. 
The project of breaking out by the western front, 
and conducting an army to the coast, as a base, 
devised by Ducrot, and not without promise, was 
abandoned in deference to popular cries ; a 
systematic attempt to force the besiegers' lines by 
counter approaches was not made, and mistakes 
occurred in all the sorties. It will always, too, be 
doubtful in the extreme whether Paris, immense as 
were its resources, could have set itself free by its 
own efforts ; whether an army of relief was not 

has been accounted for in different ways. The " Prussian Staff 
History," Part ii. vol. ii. 390, says that "both sides anticipated a 
successful result ; " but Ducrot, " La Defense de -Paris," iv. 29G, 
insists that Favre knew, or ought to have known, that Bourbaki 
was in the gravest peril, and severely blames the miiiister. Still, 
he admits, iv. 306, that, even at this time, much was expected 
from Bourbaki. Bismarck and Moltke were probably aware of 
the real state of the case, and kept it to themselves, even if it be 
true that Bismarck gave a broad hint to Favre. 

366 MOLTKE. 

necessary to second the attacks of tlie citizens from 
Tvithin ; and diflficult as their position was, the men 
in power, and especially Trochu, were not capable, 
and exhibited weakness. These circumstances, 
however, do not detract from the grandeur of the 
defence in its true aspect. The world scornfully 
denied that a luxurious capital, a centre, beyond all 
others, of frivolous pleasure, would venture to stand 
the trial of a siege, and yet Paris resisted the 
mighty power of the German armies for more than 
four months, and was unconquered, when it was 
forced to succumb. That such a city should have 
created great armies in a few weeks, out of levies 
of recruits, and its own population, was a marvel of 
energy ; that it should have kept the hosts of the 
invaders at bay, and made the result of the contest 
long uncertain, was an extraordinary passage of 
war ; above all, that during a protracted period of 
suffering, of privations, and of agony at last, it 
should have presented, with rare exceptions, the 
spectacle of heroic endurance, of noble patience, 
and of social order, was a magnificent instance of 
patriotic duty. It is deplorable to have to add that 
this glorious achievement was ere long tarnished by 
the frightful crimes that disgraced the Reign of 
Terror of the Commune ; but these should not be 
laid to the charge of the mass of the citizens. They 
were the deeds of a few wicked men, who laid hold 
of elements of disorganization and trouble, that 
came to a head in a time of disorder and anarchy ; 
they were largely due to the unwisdom that left 


arms in the hands of dregs of the populace, and 

they were committed at a time when the minds of 

men were distempered by indignation and passion, 

as in the case of the massacres of September, 1792. 

The armistice found Chanzy, at Laval, at the head 

of an army, still equal to war, and reinforced by a 

new corps, the 26th, raised by Gambetta's incessant 

exertions. In arranging the lines of demarcation 

between the lately contending forces, Moltke had 

insisted on occupying the southern bank of the 

Loire ; and there can be little doubt that his 

object was, in the event of hostilities being resumed, 

to cut Chanzy off from the southern provinces, and 

to drive him, isolated and beaten, into the west. But 

the great French chief had anticipated this attack ; 

and he had thought a plan of operations out, which he 

confidently hoped, might yet wring apeace honourable 

to his country, from an exhausted enemy. "Within 

three months France would be able to place more ^ 

than 600,000 men in the field, without reckoning 

Bourbaki's army, and the Parisian levies by this 

time lost; and Chanzy calculated that with these 

forces, directed with care by his masterhand, he 

would be able to maintain a guerilla warfare, with 

the support of other chiefs, and of the national 

rising, retreating from point to point, and taking 

advantage of every position between the Loire and 

the Pyrenees,^ and so harassing the Germans that 

J "La Deuxieme Armee de la Loire," p. 416. 
2 Moltke and the German generals were seriously apprehensive 
of the consequences of a resistance of this kind ; and no impartial 

368 MOLTKE. 

at last, war-worn and fatigued as they already 
were, they would accept conditions not unfavour- 
able to France. He proposed, therefore, to lead 
his army, now more than 200,000 strong, into 
Poitou, and to await events ; and in letters resem- 
bling those ofWellington, when the great English- 
man planned the defence of Portugal, the Du 
Guesclin of the war of 1870-1 showed how 
safety might be plucked from danger, if France 
would earnestly second his heroic efforts. It is 
idle to say that his projects were vain, when we 
bear in mind what he had accomplished in his 
admirable operations between the Loire and the 
Mayenne ; and it should be recollected that, by 
this time, the efficiency of the German armies, 
largely filled with landwehr and mere recruits, was 
being diminished day after day.^ 

observer denied, at the time, that it might have been successful. 
Some courtiers of fortune, and writers inspired from Germany, 
were found in England, who condemned this kind of warfare as 
"unfair;" as if Thermopylae, Saguntum, Morat, Valleyforge, 
Saragossa were not names immortal in history. 

^ Chanzy's views should be carefully studied. They will be 
found in "La Deuxicme Armee de la Loire," pp. 417, 424. We 
quote a single passage from his remarkable despatches : — " Les 
troupes, (lent nous disposons, il ne faut pas se le dissimuler, 
n'ont encore ni une organisation assez solide, ni une cohesion 
suffisante, ni une assez grande habitude de la vie militaire, pour 
constituer des armees pouvant manoeuvrer et lutter avec Constance 
et persistance contre celles que I'ennemi va pouvoir leur opposer 
en nombre au moins egal. II faut done eviter les engagements 
qui peuvent etre decisifs. Le but a atteindre est d'affirmer 
I'idee de la resistance et de la produire sur tous les points a la 
fois, de facon a forcer I'ennemi a se disperser, d'obliger I'Alle- 


Meanwhile, however, an appalling disaster had 
befallen the army, rashly sent, in ignorance of war, 
by Gambetta to the east. Moltke and his lieutenants, 
we have seen,^ had remained unaware, during 
many days, of the march of the Second Army 
of the Loire; and the first week of January had 
almost passed, before the direction Bourbaki had 
taken had been ascertained at the German head- 
quarters. But Moltke had already, with excellent 
forethought,^ despatched, we have pointed out, the 
2nd Corps to support the 7th, on the long space 
between the Germans on the Loire and Werder's 
forces ; and these arrays holding this part of the 
external zone, were, by the 12th of January, 
approaching each other, between Chatillon on the 
Seine, and Nuits on the Arman^on, an affluent of 

magne a maintenir en France une armee d'au moins 500,000 
homnies de lui imposor des sacrifices qui finiront par le lasser, 
et d'atteindre aussi le moment ou solidement organises nous 
pourrons, par un supreme effort, entreprendre, dans de bonnes 
conditions, de refouler I'ennemi de notre territoire. Ce que 
les Allemands redoutent le plus, c'est la guerre de detail, la 
defense du sol pied a pied, la resistance derriere tous les obstacles. 
C'est ce qu'il faut obtenir du veritable patriotisme de nos popula- 
tions. Les armees, les corps formes ne doivent ctre que des jDoints 
d'appui, des moyens menage's pour profiter habilement des fautes do 
I'ennemi, desesecbecs, et de sa dispersion, II faut done organiser 
partout la defense locale en faisant appel a tous les gens de cceur, 
en les groupant autour de personalites influentes dans leur propre 
pays, habituant la nation a I'idee des sacrifices qu'elle doit faire. 
II faut qu'apres avoir dispute le terrain pied a pied on le cede a 
I'ennemi en faisant le vide autour de lui, en le privaut de toutc 

1 See ante, p. 341. 2 gee ante, p 334. 

B b 

370 MOLTKE. 

Yonne to tlie west. When the march of Bourbaki 
had become fully known, Mantenffel, the chief of 
the First Army, was sent from the north to lead the 
7th and 2nd Corps, from 50,000 to (30,000 strong, 
against the enemy in Franche-Comte ; and the 
German commander at once set off bearing quickly 
down on his still distant quarry. The march of 
the advancing columns in intense cold, across the 
barren and wind-swept nplands of Langres, was 
difficult in the extreme and marked with many 
hardships, but it was admirably carried ont and 
very quick ; and here we see distinctly the pro- 
digious difference between a trained and well- 
organized army, and an assemblage of levies, ill 
provided and equipped. Garibaldi, we have said, 
had been directed to guard against an attempt 
from this side ; another French division, too, had 
been thus employed ; but Mantenffel pushed aside 
his surprised foes, and kept them in check by small 
detachments ; and on the 20th, he was upon the 
Saone, having ably made a most arduous move- 
ment. By this time the battles of Hericourt had 
been fought; Bourbaki was in retreat southwards ; 
and Werder was about to pursue his enemy through 
the intricate country that leads to Besan^on. With 
an inspiration worthy of a great captain, Man- 
tenffel resolved not to join Werder, well able, after 
his success, to protect himself, but to press on east- 
ward, without stopping a moment, and falling on 
Bourbaki's exposed flank, to cut him off from his 
line of retreat to the south. By the 21st his 


advanced guard was upon the Donbs ; by the 23rd 
it occupied the main road which descends from 
Besancon on Lyons; and Bourbaki was ah-eady in 
the gravest peril. Moltke had not ordered, but he 
highly praised,^ a movement promising immense 
results, if certainly in some respects hazardous, a 
movement, we should add, in keeping with the 
principles of war he had impressed on the minds of 
every German chief. 

Bourbaki, meantime, had been effecting his 
retreat from the Lisaine on Besancon. His march, 
we have seen, was not molested at first, for the 
losses of Werder had been severe ; and he ^ suc- 
ceeded, in some measure, in restoring discipline 
and in inspiring his troops with hope. But supplies 
failed the stricken and exhausted soldiery ; thou- 
sands perished through cold and the ravages of 
disease,^ and his army again became a wreck, be- 
fore Besan<;;on was even approached. At this place 
the unfortunate chief found himself in a situation 
strongly resembling that of JNTapoleon, in 1812, 
when the Emperor was apprized, at Smolensk, 
that his famishing host, with Kutusoff hanging on 
its rear, was intercepted by Wittgenstein and 

^ Moltke made this report to the king on Manteuffel's conduct, 
"Prussian Staff History," Part ii. vol. iii. 10 : '^ General v. Man- 
teuffel's movement is extremely bold, but it may lead to tlie 
greatest results ; should he sufl'er a check he ought not to be blamed, 
for in order to gain great success, something must be risked." 

2 Bourbaki asserted this at the Enqucte Parlemeutairo, and his 
evidence bears all the marks of truth. 

2 Small-pox was very destructive in Bourbaki's army. 

B b 2 

372 MOLTKE. 

Tcliitcliakoff, as it was making for the Beresina 
on its way to Poland. Bourbaki had been promised 
that at Besan^on he would receive an ample store 
of supplies ; he had been assured that Garibaldi 
possessed the means of effectually protecting his 
flank on his march, and of keeping back any enemies 
on his path. But no magazines had been formed at 
Besan^on ; there -were provisions for a few days 
only ; and Werder was already pressing the French 
from the north, while Manteuffel was closing round 
from the south. The situation was well-nigh 
desperate ; yet Bourbaki probably did all that could 
be expected from a stout and gallant soldier. He 
directed his 18th and 24th corps to throw "Werder 
back and to cover the retreat, and he pushed for- 
ward his 15th and 20tli corps, with Cremer, to 
gain the second main road leading from Besan^on, 
east of the first, on Lyons. Werder, however, 
routed his enemy in the rear, the second avenue of 
escape was barred by Manteuffel' s rapidly converg- 
ing forces; and the French general had no real 
choice left, but to diverge eastward towards the 
Swiss frontier, and to seek the means of effecting 
his retreat, through the defiles between the Upper 
Doubs and the Jura. By this time, however, his 
ruined army ^ was scarcely able to keep the field ; 

1 Bourbaki described the state of bis army at the Enquele 
Parlementaire in these words : — "La demoralisation des troupes 
etait profonde, elle etait la consequence des circonstances, des 
miseres supportees, de la satisfaction incomplete des besoins 
materiels, de la jeunesse se soldats, de leur manque d'habifcude 
des choses de la guerie, de leur defaut d'instruction, et surtout 


winter, hunger, and discouragement had done their 
work, and despair had taken possession of the ill- 
fated commander. He had been defeated, and 
cruelly deceived ; he could scarcely hope to avert 
another Sedan, and, at this terrible moment, he 
was recklessly goaded by Gambetta urging him to 
break out at Auxonne, a movement dangerous iu 
the extreme, in any case,^ and possible only to a 
well-equipped army. The reason of the brave 
soldier suddenly gave way, and in his agony, he 
made an attempt on his own life.^ 

The command of Bourbaki was taken by Clin- 

d'education militaire, du manque de cadres, et d'anciens soldats 
fa90Bnes au metier .... Ceci ce faisait Messieurs, avec ua 
froid de 15 degres en moyenne, un verglas epouvantable .... 
ISTos chevaux d'artillerie tombaient tous les quatres pas ; il fallait 
les relever, il retombaient ; on les relevaient ils tombaient encore ; 
et cela durait toute la journce." 

1 The " Prussian Staff History," Part ii. vol. iii. p. 40, indicates 
that this movement was conceivable, and undoubtedly Man- 
teuffel's centre was rather exposed at this point. But Bourl)aki 
insisted at the Enquete Parlementaire that it was impossible in 
the existing state of his army, and it Avould at best have exposed 
the French to be hemmed in between the Doubs, the Oguon, and the 
Saone. The best proof that he was right is that all his colleagues, 
with one doubtful exception, concurred in his views ; and his 
successor, a distinguished soldier, was of the same opinion." 

2 Bourbaki's account of this incident is pathetic ; he has long 
ago disappeared from the army, of which he was an ornament, 
but we do not know if he is dead : — *' La crainte de voir mou 
armce internee en Suisse, le manque de vivres pour mes troupes, 
I'apprcciation injuste que le ministre de la guerre faisait d'efforts, 
si constants, si soutenus, si desespcrcs, tented dans des conditions de 
temperature afFreuses, toutes ces pcnsces m'assaillirent, et alors 
.... I'accident est arrive." 

374 MOLTKE. 

clianfc, an officer who had distinguished himself in 
the operations of the French from jfirst to last. 
The new general, without hesitation, followed the 
dispositions of his late chief; and moved his 
worn-out army towards Pontarlier, only a few miles 
from the edge of Switzerland, while he left nothing 
untried to secure the possession of the one and the 
only road still open to the south. It was now the 
28th of January ; and but for an unhappy incident, 
the greater part of the First Army of the Loire 
might, perhaps, have escaped along this line, a 
defile, we have said, between the Jura and the 
heads of the Doubs. The approach is closed from 
the side of Franche-Comte, by hills impassable, save 
at two points ; and Clinchant pushed forward horse- 
men to occupy these, and so to bar an hostile 
advance, his purpose being to conduct the mass 
of his forces, from Pontarlier along the defile 
towards Lyons. But on the 29th, a despatch 
arrived informing the French commander that a 
cessation of arms had. been arranged between the 
belligerent Powers, but leaving out the all-important 
fact that this did not extend to operations in the 
East of France ; and this fatal blunder seems to 
have been due to the negligence of Favre, who had 
almost lost his head. 

Clinchant claimed the benefit of the armistice; 
but Manteuff'el, made aware of the truth, refused to 
suspend hostilities beyond a few hours, and this 
sealed the doom of the French army. Even before 
the armistice had been announced, a small detach- 


nient of German cavalry liad seized one of the two 
passes, but so weakly that it might have been 
easily dislodged ; and the rearward corps of the 
retiring army had been defeated not far from 
Pontarlier. Escape nevertheless was still possible/ 
had not Clinchant stopped the march of his columns, 
in the belief that the contest had come to an end, 
and had not the exhausted soldiery made a halt, 
along the whole line, at the news of the armistice, 
and generally shown reluctance to stand to their 
arms.^ The Germans had soon closed in on all 
sides : a few thousand men and a number of officers 
contrived to make their way through the defile 
southwards, but the remains of the French army, 
80,000 fugitives, had no choice but to break up 
from Pontarlier and to find a refuge in the neutral 
ground of Switzerland, where they were lost to 
France should the war be prolonged. The arms of 
France had thus, for the second time, met a disaster 
like that of the Army of Chalons ; and the project 
of Gambetta, ill-conceived in principle, but in- 

* This at least was Bourbaki's judgment at the Enqucte Parle- 
mentairc : — " Cette armce courait le risqiie d'etre internee en 
Suisse, Les evenements ont prouve depuis cette necessitc nieiue 
n'aiirait pas etc subie par la 1'''^ armce, si Tarmistice n'avait pas eu 
lieu, ou s'il n'avait ete donne a mon successeur aucun ordre de 
I'observer avant que la commandant des forces ennemies eut re^u 
les niemes instructions." 

"^ Evidence of General Clinchant at the Enquete Parle- 
mentaire: — "La nouvelle de i'armistice avait acheve de dctruire 
lo moral." 

*' Pourquoi nous batterons nous," disaient les soldats, " si uos 
camaradcs des autres armees ne se battent plus % " 

376 MOLTKE. 

sensate, under existing conditions of climate, and 
military organization and force, bad ended in an 
immense catastrophe. Yet this result would not 
have been obtained had not the arras of Germany 
been directed with ability and energy both con- 
summate. The operations of Manteuffel deserve 
the highest praise ; they were worthy of Moltke's 
best teaching ; Werder seconded Manteuffel with 
vigour and effect ; and in the movements which 
annihilated Bourbaki's army, we see again the self- 
reliance, the well-concerted action, the boldness, 
the resolution, the well-prepared efforts conspicuous 
on the side of Germany in the first part of the war, 
but seldom exhibited in the second part.^ 

The catastrophe of Bourbaki's army was soon 
followed by the fall of Belfort, after a protracted 
and admirably-sustained defence. Many other 
fortresses had been captured, besides those already 
referred to, and the whole interior of France, 
between the Loire and the Seine, had been laid 
open to the invaders. These sieges had exhibited 
the same features : a bombardment had had decisive 
effects, where the places attacked were old and 

' In addition to the authorities before referred to, a good analysis 
of these operations in the East of France will be found in General 
Pierron's work, '* Strategic et Grande Tactique," vol. i. pp. 122, 
158. General Ducrot, " La Defense de Paris," vol, iv. pp. 346, 
355, contends that, but for the mistake respecting the armistice, 
Clinchant would have saved the largest part of the army, and 
indicates how this was on the point of being accomplished. 
l)ucrot, however, disliked Favrc and throws as much blame on 
him as is possible. 


small, but regular operations bad, in most instances, 
been feebly conducted, with tardy success, even 
against garrisons of mere levies, and the Germans 
had shown little skill in the art of the encfineer. 
The succession of disasters which had reached a 
climax in the surrender of Paris, and the calamity 
in the east, broke down the spirit of resistance in 
Prance, and the National Assembly, that had met 
at Bordeaux, virtually accepted the terms imposed 
by the conquerors. Chanzy, how^ever, maintained 
to the last moment, that the war might be con- 
tinued -with, good hopes of success, on the system 
of which he had laid down the lines ; and if we 
bear in mind the resources still possessed by France, 
the great deeds of her illustrious soldier, and that 
his judgment was formed under the gravest sense 
of responsibility incurred by himself, and in the 
presence of immense dangers, few will venture to 
say that he was wholly in error. He recorded 
his convictions in weighty words, at which the 
worshippers of success have scoffed, but of w^hich 
history will form a very different estimate. "JS^o 
doubt we must seek for the causes of our defeats, 
in the weakness and insufficiency of our organization 
for war, seduced as we were for some years by false, 
ignorant, or factious opinions, and in the want of 
unity, fatally conspicuous in all our strategic com- 
binations; but, in our judgment, we, who had 
found again, in our improvised armies, the great 
military qualities, which are the inalienable heritage 
of our nation, the chief cause of our final disasters 

378 MOLTKE. 

was our want of confidence in ourselves. Our fine 
armies liad been lost, our capital had fallen after 
p'lorious and heroic efforts ; and we ceased to 
believe that success was possible, when it was still 
within our reach." ^ ^ 

The Treaty of Frankfort set a seal to the results 
of the war of 1870-1. German horsemen rode 
under the Arch of the Star, a monument raised to 
the Grand Army, as Napoleon's Guards had passed 
through Berlin ; and Germany glories in Metz and 
Sedan, as France gloried in Jena and Austerlitz. 
A ransom was extorted from the vanquished 
nation, unexampled in the annals of war ; it 
was stripped of two of its most loyal provinces ; 
and Alsace and Lorraine have been held ever since 
by force, a trophy of conquest that will be hardly 
lasting. It has been generally understood, that 
unlike Bismarck, Moltke insisted on this territorial 
cession ; but to do him justice he had no sympathy 
with noisy pedants, who, as in the case of Schleswig 

^ " La Deuxieme Armee de la Loire," p. 448. 

2 Moltke is somewhat chary of merited praise when he merely 
remarks, " The Franco-German War," vol. ii. p. 46, English 
Translation, that " General Chanzy was certainly the most capable 
of all the leaders, whose duty it became to fight the invaders in 
the open fields." It is gratifying to know that the real hero of 
the second part of the war of 1870-1 was received, during a visit 
to Berlin, some years afterwards, with the greatest cordiality 
and distinction by the Emperor William, his adversary Prince 
Frederick Charles, and Moltke himself. The " stetimus tela 
aspera contia, contulimusque manus " should create a brotherhood 
in the noble profession of arms, as in the cases of Turenne and 
Condc, of Eugene and Villars, of Soult and Wellington. 


Holstein, fabricated a claim for Prussia, to posses- 
sions to which she had no shadow of a right. With 
lladetski, he thought that Imperial rule was best 
secured by a strong frontier, whatever animosities 
this might provoke ; and, with a marked aversion 
to the French character, and little real experience 
of mankind, he caused the Tricolor to be torn down 
from Metz and Strasbourg, indifferent to the tradi- 
tions and feelings of Frenchmen. Yet the Austrian 
eagle has disappeared from the Adige and the 
Miacio, in the course of events which prove that 
the sword does not rule tlie world ; and, in the 
negotiations of 1871, Moltke gave no proof of 
Wellington's forethought, who warned the allies 
tliat a discontented France, with her vast elements 
of military power, would permanently endanger the 
repose of Europe. The peace dictated by victorious 
Germany has already had many evil results, and is 
pregnant with future and general troubles. A 
second Poland has been formed on the Rhine ; and 
clumsy attempts to win the hearts of a people 
justly devoted to France, have ended in conspicuous 
failure. The Continent has become a huge armed 
camp, for every State has been compelled to imitate 
the Prussian military system to protect its interests ; 
alliances have been formed against France, in the 
hope of averting universal war ; and France herself, 
renewing her strength, with the elastic energy of 
life she has always displayed, has become moro 
formidable on land and at sea, than she has been 
since the days of Napoleon, and is only biding her 

380 MOLTKE. 

time to take vengeance on an enemy slie deems a 
hateful despoiler. In this position of affairs peace 
must be precarious ; and uneasiness, and a sense of 
ever-impending danger, pervades the public mind in 
five-sixths of Europe. Yet the worst feature of the 
situation is this : the Triple alliance combined 
against France, has necessarily caused France to 
draw near to Russia ; and this ominous conjunc- 
tion may lead to a contest, to which history can 
show no parallel. In the irony of Fate, Napoleon's 
prediction may be realized in a not distant future ; 
and if Europe, in the progress of events, shall 
become half Republican and half Cossack, this 
will be largely ascribed to the unwise Peace of 

The second part of the war of 1870-1 was not, 
like the first, a great drama of well connected and 
defined acts, leading, in quick succession, to a 
tragic conclusion. It was rather a long and event- 
ful epic, abounding in episodes of prof ound interest, 
ending in a mighty struggle of race, but grand and 
heroic in its highest aspects. We have endeavoured 
to describe the part played by Moltke in this magni- 
ficent spectacle of human action, and we shall not re- 
peat what we have already written. His figure stands 
out in supreme prominence, in the earlier scenes of 
the great contest. He conducts hosts, largely 
fashioned by himself, from the Vistula and the 
Elbe to the Rhine and the Meuse, and, steadily 
carrying out a preconcerted plan, directs them 
a":ainst the weak armies of France ; and, if in the 


conflict that follows lie does not display military 
genius of the very highest order, if he triumphs 
mainly through the errors of his foes, and his own 
overwhelming superiority of force, he astonishes the 
world by his prodigious success, and he shows that 
he has many of the gifts of a great warrior. In the 
second phase of the strife, he is suddenly beset by 
unforeseen and immense obstacles ; he is arrested in 
his course of victory, and is troubled and perplexed 
for a time ; and his personality loses its command- 
ing place, in view of the resistance of Paris, and 
the wonderful national rising of France. He, 
nevertheless, remains conspicuous, giving proof of 
grand constancy, and strength of will ; and when, 
owing to accidents, and his enemy's mistakes, and 
the passionate support of a united Grermauy, he 
extricates himself from surrounding perils, he shows 
remarkable military skill, and directs operations 
that deserve the highest praise. Yet the figures of 
Gambetta, with all his failings, and of Chanzy, 
superior in defeat to Fortune, will probably fill as 
large a space ^ on the page of history, as that of 

^ Mr. Yyffe, " History of Modern Europe," vol. iii. 452, 
truly remarks ; *' Whatever share the military errors of Gambetta 
a.nd his rash personal interference with commanders may have 
had in the ultimate defeat of France, without him it would never 
have been known of what efforts France was capable. The proof 
of his capacity was seen in the hatred and fear with which ilown 
to the time of his death he inspired the German people. Had 
there been at the head of the armv of Metz a man of one-tenth 
of Gambetta's effective force, it is possible that France might have 
closed the war, if not with success, at least with undiminished 

382 MOLTKE. 

Moltke, in the later passages of the war of 1870-1 ; 
and the noble and patriotic efforts of France will 
certainly be their most striking feature. For the 
rest Germany did not exhibit in -a movement, which 
had some things in common with the great move- 
ment of 1798-4, the recklessness, the folly, and 
the lust for war, exhibited by Revolutionary France ; 
but she made a bad use of the rights of conquest, 
and Nemesis seldom fails to avenge injustice. 

The war, we should add, like all great wars, 
brought clearly out, the essential qualities, and 
historical antecedents of the Powers in conflict. 
Prussia, a state long of the second order, and 
trodden under foot in 1806-12, but conscious of 
her inherent strength, and chafing at the inferior 
position she held, submitted patiently to a severe 
discipline to make her able to cope with France ; 
and when her military resources had become so 
vast, that ultimate success was almost assured, she 
obtained the aid of a dependent Germany, engaged 
in the conflict with steadfast purpose, and persisted 
in it, with unflinching firmness, enormous as was 
the strain on her energies. Taught by adversity 
not to be rash, stern, resolute, and determined to 
make their influence felt, the hitherto divided 
German races joined in the crusade against their 
ancient foe ; and, thoroughly prepared and ready 
for war, never relaxed their efforts until they had 
gained their end. France, en the other hand, 
proud of her renown in arms, and carelessly relying 
on mere traditions, enfeebled by a corrupt and 


unstable government, and devoted for years to the 
pursuits of peace, had allowed her military power 
to dwindle and decay ; and she rushed thought- 
lessly into a gigantic struggle, in which she had 
hardly a chance of real success. The result was 
soon seen by an astounded Europe ; the armies of 
the effete empire, and their worthless and incap- 
able leaders, went down like leaves before the 
autumn blast; and the first victories of Germany 
were beyond example. France, however, refused 
to confess defeat ; the heroism of the race was 
shown in its noble resolve to defend the natal soil ; 
and hopeless as the situation was deemed, the 
conflict that followed was so desperate, so well sus- 
tained, so fierce, so prolonged, that Germany was 
tasked to the very utmost, to obtain the success 
that had seemed secure. Yet in that final struegrle 
organized force, trained military power and wise 
direction, prevailed at last over all the efforts 
of patriotic valour and passion often misguided, 
and thrown away ; and in this supreme crisis 
France displayed the failings repeatedly seen in her 
chequered history, misplaced energy, discordant 
counsels, and a proneness to follow the first leader, 
who has the audacity to assume a dictator's part. 

France could have obtained a less onerous peace, 
had she submitted to the terms of her conquerors, 
after the defeat of her Imperial armies. The 
circumstance has been made a pretext for con- 
demning her heroic resistance ; but only weak 
heads or corrupt hearts will accept a cowardly and 

384 MOLTKE. 

false argument. A nation's most precious posses- 
sion is its honour ; and France would have forfeited 
this great heritage, had she tamely bowed her neck 
to the yoke, after Worth, Spicheren, Gravelotte and 
Sedan. She took the wiser and nobler course ; and 
if she has suffered in the result, the gain has been 
infinitely more important. By the defence of 
Paris and the great national rising, she has blotted 
out the disgrace that fell on her arms ; Metz and 
Sedan did not leave her degenerate ; she justified 
her claim to stand in the rank of the ruling Powers 
and races of mankind. Nay, from a mere material 
point of view, her perseverance in the contest did 
her immense benefit. It was not in vain that 
rustic and noble, that men of science and art, and 
men of trade, took up arms to fight for the natal 
soil ; that Paris endured the agony of the siege ; 
that France sent her sons in hundreds of thousands 
to do battle with a revengeful but alarmed enemy. 
The struggle proved how gigantic is her power ; 
how she succumbed mainly through mere accidents 
that probably Avill not occur again ; that in spite of 
the cant of the courtiers of Fortune, she has far 
more inherent strength than Germany ; that she is 
a great and formidable Power of the first order. 
A German commaiider will hardly venture to 
advance hastily on Paris again, whatever may have 
been his triumphs in the field. 


Welcome given to Moltke on his return from the war in France — • 
Honours and distinctions conferred on him — He resumes his 
post as Chief of the Staff — His dislike of flattery — His de- 
clining years — Celebration of his sixtieth year of military 
service — His work with the General Staff — Preparation for 
war — Speeches in the Reichstag and Prussian Chamber — 
Jealousy of France— ^Life at Creisau — Moltke retires from the 
post of Chief of the Staff — Celebration of his ninetieth birth- 
day — His death — Reflections on his career. 

Moltke had passed his seventieth year by some 
months when his splendid but brief career in the 
field closed. Germany instinctively felt that her 
extraordinary success was due to him more than to . 
any other leader, and gave him a national greeting 
on his return from Prance. On the day when the 
victorious soldiers of Prussia defiled through the 
exulting streets of Berlin, after a long march from 
the Seine to the Spree, thousands of eyes turned on 
the impressive figure of the veteran who had 
directed the arms that had gained triumphs with- 
out a parallel, and thousands of voices rang out a 
joyous acclaim. Deserved honours fell thick on 
the illustrious warrior. His sovereign and friend 
relaxed in his behalf rules that excluded him from 

certain high grades and dignities. He received the 

c c 

386 MOLTKE. 

staff of a Field Marshal, the special distinction of a 
commander-in-chief, a rank he had not technically 
attained ; the Prussian Chambers voted him a large 
sum of money, and cities vied with each other to 
give him their freedom. Yet Moltke cared little 
for these things, and quietly resumed the duties of 
Chief of the Staff, which had been fot* years his 
task and his delight. The real head of the great 
hosts of Prussia, surrounded by colleagues formed 
by his hand, and directing younger men to tread in 
their steps, he went steadily on in the incessant 
work of military organization, which was his pe- 
culiar excellence, and of elaborating to still higher 
perfection the mighty instrument of war of which 
he had been a chief creator. Mistakes made in the 
late war were noted ; defects in the army and its 
dependent services were carefully examined and set 
right; and the great *' Staff History " of the events 
of 1S70-1 was compiled under Moltke's own 
auspices — spite of many faults, a remarkable work. 
The famous Chief of the Staff, however, was not a 
recluse, as he had not been in any part of his life ; 
he was naturally a grand figure at Court, where he 
was loved and esteemed by the Royal Family ; and 
though, as age advanced, he had become taciturn 
and austere in manner except to real friends — here, 
again, the opposite of Napoleon- — he was the charm 
of the social hour with those who knew him well. 
But for the herd of flatterers who hung on his foot- 
steps he felt, and did not conceal, his dislike. " I 
detest," he wrote, " the adulation of which I have 


become an object. I hear it, and make this reflec- 
tion : * What would they have said if success had 
not attended our arms ? ' These ill-deserved praises 
would have been changed into as many unjust cen- 
sures and stupid invectives." ^ 

Twenty years of honoured life were still vouch- 
safed to Moltke ; and like Turenne, Eugene of 
Savoy, and "Wellington, it was his good fortune to 
read in a nation's eyes that he was a pillar of one 
of the great Powers of Europe. In his case, it 
would be more than superfluous to enumerate all 
the distinctions he obtained ; he had nothing in 
common with the boaster Villarsj who sets his 
achievements out in the style of a herald. A man- 
of-war and one of the forts of Strasbourg were 
named after him at the command of the Emperor ; 
a statue was raised to him at his birth-place, 
Parchim, and a trophy in front of his home in 
Silesia. The anniversary of the sixtieth year of 
his service was celebrated at Berlin with military 
state ; stars of noble orders were gratefully 
bestowed ; and the Royal House of Prussia joined 
in the tribute of honour. During this period the 
still hale veteran was usually present at the great 
manoeuvres which form part of the training of the 
Prussian army, and his keen criticism and attention 
to details showed that time had not yet weakened 
the force of his intellect. He visited also, with his 

» " RcvuG Militaire Suisse. Lc Feld-]\rari'chal Moltke." By 
Abel Vcuglaix. This, too, is characteristic : " "We do not exactly 
know what our army is worth ; it has not sulTerecl revers(!s," 

c c 2 

388 MOLTKE. 

imperial master, tlie famous battle-fields around 
Metz; and lie gave considerable attention to the 
German navy, for he had been strongly impressed 
by the advantage possessed by France in the late 
war through her command of the sea, which had 
enabled her to arm her levies for the field. 

The multifarious work of the Staff, however, 
remained the great occupation of its renowned 
chief, and he found ample scope for his energy and 
care in duties multiplying in the state of the world 
around him. The progress of events which had so 
changed the resources of States and the conditions 
of war since the first half of the present century, had 
been going on with accelerated speed ; population 
and civilization were growing; material discovery 
was, year after year, producing new inventions and 
destructive weapons of the first importance in the 
military art. And, at the same time, every Power 
on the Continent had doubled, trebled, nay, quad- 
rupled its armies ; and France especially, rising, as 
it were, from the dust, had given her frontiers of 
defeat such prodigious strength, and had armed 
such huge masses behind the Vosges, that she could 
be terrible in war at any moment. Moltke grasped 
the situation in its full significance ; never ceased to 
impress on the staff and the Emperor the necessity 
of keeping up the armed strength of Germany at 
the highest point of numbers and efficiency in the 
field ; and went steadily on with preparations for 
war, following in this Prussia's traditional policj'. 
He gave expression more than once to his views 


in the Reichstag and the Prussian House of Peers, 
of both of wliich he had been long a member, and 
his sentiments and language were characteristic. 
He showed how the military supremacy of a United 
Germany was an object of alarm and suspicion, and 
how every State on the Continent was armed to 
the teeth. But like the Roman Cato, his voice was 
chiefly raised against the ancient enemy alike hated 
and feared. He dwelt on the gigantic resources of 
France ; pointed out how the events of 1870-1 
were no proof she would be vanquished again, and 
maintained that she might arise once more to afflict 
the world with a war of revenge. The irony of 
facts did not strike the speaker's mind ; it did not 
occur to him to what an extent the development of 
the military system of Germany and the annexation 
of Alsace and Lorraine contributed to the unrest 
and the troubles of Europe. 

There was, however, another side to the life of 
Moltke beside that of the warrior and servant of 
the State. He had been always attached to the 
ties of home ; he had been an admirable brother, 
husband, and son, and he was devoted to intellectual 
tastes and pursuits. It was given him to enjoy 
many of these blessings during the later part of 
his long career of honour. After his first great 
triumph, in 1866, he bad received a national grant 
to buy an estate, and he had wished to regain part 
of the lands possessed by his fathers in Mecklenburg, 
near the Elbe. He was unable, however, to fulfil this 
wish, and he became the owner of a small domain 

390 MOLTKE. 

not far from tlie old stronghold of Schweidnitz, a 
scene memorable in the wars of Frederick the 
Great, and where part of the Crown Prince's army- 
assembled before it marched into Bohemia. Moltke 
usually passed the summer months at Creisau, 
amidst the hills and plains he had surveyed in youth, 
and where he had formed happy associations and 
kind friends ; and he gathered around him to this 
secluded spot — the last resting-place of his loved 
Marie — several of the younger members of his far- 
divided family, an object he had had long at heart.^ 
At Creisau Moltke lived as a country gentleman ; 
but his mental activity and the turn of his character 
were exhibited in the round of his simple life. He 
found his house ruinous and his manor a waste, and 
he made both models of skilful improvement. He 
covered acres with wood, laid out parks and gar- 
dens, dammed out streams, made useful works of 
drainage, and tried all kinds of rural experiments ; 
and in these different labours he gave ample proof 
of the intelligence, the industry, and the attention 
to details which had distinguished him in a grander 
sphere of action. As may be supposed, he did 
much for education and the training of the young ; 
he built churches, endowed schools, and established 
savings-banks for the earnings of the poor ; and, 

' Moltke wrote to his brother Adolf, as far back as 1848 
("Letters," vol. i. p. 181, EngHsh translation): "My cherished 
idea is that by degrees we should gather on an estate somewhere or 
other. ... I would rather that this possession should be on tlie 
beloved soil of Grermany." 


in a word, he performed the duties of a good- 
English landlord — a class he held in special esteem 
— in a nook of Europe little accustomed to them. 

Tlie veteran, too, in these times of leisure, 
eagerly recurred to the intellectual studies which 
had inspired his ambitious and laborious youth, and 
had been kept up through his manhood of action. 
Few have been the equals of Moltke in learning 
and culture ; and he devoted a part of each day at 
Creisau to music, drawing, and careful reading. 
He was familiar with the literature of all ages, 
especially with history and good poetry ; and he 
had a marked taste for the philosophic theories of 
the great German thinkers of the last century. He 
was fond of speculation, as some of his writings 
show, on the problems of human life and destiny ; 
"in thought elevate he reasoned high, on pro- 
vidence, foreknowledge, will, and fate ;" but he 
was not less at home in other spheres ; he delighted 
in the rich humour of Dickens, and tried to turn 
the warblings of Moore into German. The warrior, 
too, like other great warriors, had the deepest 
reverence for the Lord of Hosts, and he felt the 
presence of the Divine in human things, as Napo- 
leon, the child of a godless age, could yet rise to 
the heights of the unknown God. The religious 
musings of Moltke bear the mark of the German 
theology of his day ; he rejected dogma and cast 
aside creeds ; but this half-scepticism was kept 
under control by a sound judgment, a deep sense 
of duty, and especially perhaps by the experience 

392 MOLTKE. 

of a life of hard work. He constantly read a Bible 
that had belonged to his wife ; and he was in the 
habit of marking favourite texts that expressed 
truths he, no doubt, felt deeply. "My strength 
is made perfect in weakness," the strong man 
noted ; and the loyal subject and God-fearing 
citizen marked out for admiration the noble words : 
— *' Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter 
of persons : but in every nation he that feareth 
Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with 

At Creisau Moltke was an excellent host, and 
occasionally had numerous guests at his board. 
But his chief pleasure was to live in the company 
of the grand-nephews and nieces he had adopted — • 
the warrior was unhappily childless — and to watch 
over their youthful development. He was the 
delight of these offsets of the family tree — *' he was 
very fond of children, and the little ones repaid 
his kindness to them with true affection. He spent 
hours with these great-nephews and great-nieces, 
who were like young shoots round an old trunk ; he 
looked at picture-books, or they tried to catch him. 
In his habits and tastes he was simple — nay, austere; 
he never possessed more than two suits of clothes " 
— a tradition probably of his youth of privations — 
and " the unadorned study at Creisau, where he felt 
happy and comfortable, is a reflection of this 
innocent simplicity; nor can anyone look without 
emotion at the plain little room adjoining his study, 
in a kind of square tower which served him for a 


bedroom. A bed and a washstand are the only 
pieces of furniture in it." In conversation he was 
still gay and brilliant with those whom he could 
call friends; he was not without a vein of dry 
humour; but he " had a horror of affectation and 
circumlocution, of all outward show and deception ; 
his keen intellect at once separated the chaff from 
the wheat." As years advanced, the rigid lines of 
his countenance, in later manhood, softened by 
degrees; and his venerable face regained something 
of the beauty and refinement of his look in youth. 
*' One must have seen him walking under his 
beloved trees, a slim figure in a simple coat, bent a 
little forward, with a step which remained light and 
elastic up to his latest years. His clean-shaven 
face, of a delicate pallor, showed scant traces of 
advancing age. On that firm and expressive brow 
time had not printed the furrows which tell of 
passion and self-indulgence, but there and round 
the grave eyes mental toil had drawn ennobling 
lines. His whole appearance was full of dignity 
and refinement, and his whole countenance was 
illumined by the purity of a long life, which nothing 
base had ever marred." 

Time dealt tenderly with the old soldier, but its 
inevitable changes came by degrees. The process 
of decay told slowly on Moltke ; his fine intellect 
was not dimmed, but it stiffened into a set of 
fixed ideas, and his memory lost its retentive power. 
In his eighty- seventh year he began to w^rite his 
"Precis " of the great war of 1^70-1 ; and it gives 

394 MOLTKE. 

clear proof of these mental defects, for it exagge- 
rates the faults of the Prussian Staff History, and 
in many particulars is very incorrect. Moltke paid 
the penalty of extreme old age, in seeing the friends 
of his life pass away ; he has left a touching record 
how his revered master " struggled with inex- 
haustible patience and sweetness, one foot on 
the throne, and another in the grave ; ^ and he 
witnessed the death of the Emperor Frederick, one 
of his best lieutenants, though a man of peace. 
Soon after the accession of the present Emperor, 
the veteran, feeling that he was no longer equal to 
duties of the most arduous kind, resigned his post 
as Chief of the Staff; and his young sovereign 
expressed his sense of his priceless services in 
language of befitting dignity and grace. The 
illustrious commander bade farewell to the com- 
panions in arms trained by his care, and to the 
representatives and heads of the great institution, 
which had so largely contributed to Prussia's 
triumphs, in significant and characteristic words. 
He kept his eyes still watchfully fixed on France ; 
he warned his hearers that in the contest he 
foresaw, " supreme direction would be the chief 
element of success," — a truth not placed in sufii- 
cient prominence in an age of colossal armies and 
material force — and he expressed his satisfaction 
"that the enemy no doubt envied but did not 
possess anything corresponding to our great 
General Staff, the object of the care of the last days 
' " Letters, " vol. ii. p. 236, English traDslation. 


of Lis life." ^ His master spoke only the simple 
truth when he wrote that his " tenure of the office 
of Chief of the Staff would be honourably remem- 
bered as long as there is a Prussian soldier or a 
Prussian heart left in the world." 

All the work of Moltke, however, was not yet 
done ; he was made President of the Council of 
National Defence — a commission of high officers of 
state, the name of which expresses its purpose — and 
he occasionally accompanied the Emperor in tours 
of inspection. He was given, too, a permanent 
abode in the palace of the great General Staff ; and 
his successor often sought the aid of his counsels.^ 
He completed his ninetieth year in October, 1890 ; 
and the occasion was made one for a great festival 
throughout the length and breadth of the Ger- 
man Empire. The day was a holiday in every 
school of the state ; and deputations went from 
many cities and towns to offer addresses to the 
great Field Marshal. But the chief centre of 
homage was Berlin ; a place of honour w^as laid 
out for Moltke in one of the rooms of the Palace 
of the Staff; and he witnessed torch-light pro- 
cessions of applauding crowds, received greetings 
of respect from guilds of trades, from bodies of 
students, from men of letters and art ; and, in a 

^ " Le Marechal de Moltke," par xxx, a French general officer, 
pp. 252, 253. 

2 Most of the particulars of the later years of Moltke will ho 
found in a work called " Moltke, his life and character," tran.s- 
lated by Mary Herms — a hook quite unworthy of the subject, but 
containing useful information. 

306 MOLTKH. 

word, was bailed as one of the founders of the 
national greatness. The ceremony ended with a 
grand banquet, when the veteran was thanked for 
his great deeds by the Emperor and the Royal 
House, and received an Honorary Marshal's staff; 
the Princes of Germany joined in the chorus of 
praise : and a message of congratulation came from 
the Emperor Francis Joseph, a token of friendship, in 
spite of Sadowa. This was the last scene of Moltke's 
public life ; he passed quietly away a few months 
afterwards. His end was sudden, but painless and 
peaceful ; after an evening spent with his adopted 
family, he felt unwell and retired to his room ; in a 
few moments the struggle with death was over, 
and an eye-witness, who hastened to the spot 
on hearing a groan from the dying man, has re- 
corded that his last effort was *' to turn his head 
gently to the left, to the wall where the portrait of 
his beloved wife hung, surrounded by palms." It 
is unnecessary to say how Germany mourned her 
great loss ; the flag hung at half-mast from castle 
and steeple, on men-of-war, and on the fleets of com- 
merce ; the bier that carried the remains of Moltke 
had borne those of his two late sovereigns ; and he 
was attended by the magnificence of war in sorrow. 
He sleeps by the side of the woman he loved in his 
quiet home in the Silesian hills ; but his country 
may say with truth of the great man taken from 
her : ^ " Quidquid ex Agricola amavimus, quid- 
quid mirati sumus, manet mansurumque est in 
^ Tacitus, " Julii Agricolse Vita," c. 56. 


animis hominum, in a3ternitate tcmporiim, fama 

Nature gave Moltke the best gift she can bestow 
on a man in any walk of life, and especially the 
best in the case of a soldier,^ great strength of 
character and firmness of purpose ; and she added 
constancy, daring, and intense perseverance. If 
she refused imagination of a high order, and the 
power of attracting the hearts of men, she supplied 
an intelligence keen and profound, clear insight, 
vivid perception and thought, and a sound, stead- 
fjxst, and practical judgment. It was not, however, 
the fortune of Moltke to direct armies until he had 
reached old age ; and his best years were devoted 
to the study of war, and to preparing for war in 
time of peace. His faculties and the accidents of 
life made military organization his peculiar calling ; 
and this, beyond dispute, was his supreme ex- 
cellence. His distinctive merit was that he saw 
more clearly than any other personage in high rank 
at the time how the circumstances of a new era 
had largely changed the conditions of war ; and he 
applied this knowledge with consummate skill, with 
assiduous toil, with never-ceasing care, to that 
mighty assemblage of force, the Prussian armj^ 
He divided masses that otherwise would have been 
too vast into distinct units manageable in the 
field ; he turned to advantage the increased self- 
reliance and mental training of the individual 
soldier, by encouraging him to be more than a 
' Napoleon. 

398 MOLTKE. 

mere fighting machine ; he made tlie railway- 
system and the extension of roads secure a celerity 
and precision in the early operations of war, which 
had not been often possible before; and he caused the 
telegraph, the rifled gun, and the breech-loading 
musket, to yield their best uses to the requirements 
of his art. Ease in great manoeuvres on a theatre 
of war, marked improvement in the lower ranks of 
the army, rapidity in the assembly of troops, and 
the adaptation of tactics and strategy to the 
material inventions by which they were modified, 
were thus realized in the Prussian service more 
completely than in that of any other State ; and 
the world beheld the results with amazement. But 
Moltke achieved much more than this ; learned in 
the history of war almost beyond example, he 
perfectly understood its best methods ; and he so 
constituted the armed force of Prussia, that it 
should be ever ready to take the offensive, and 
to have the initiative in the first operations in 
the field. It is certain, too, that he had much 
influence in gaining for intelligence and worth their 
due place in the higher grades of the army ; and it 
is probable that, through his authority with the 
kingc, he had much to do with the selection of even 
the chief commands. We know, at least, that in 
1866 and 1870, the Prussian army, of which he was 
the real head, possessed a staff and an array of 
officers by many degrees the best on the Con- 
tinent, and its leaders were almost all distinguished 
for zeal, resolution, skill, and acting well in concert, 


and in some instances for great capacity. It was 
the superior organization of the Prussian arin3% 
more or less imitated in the other States of Ger- 
many, combined with overwhelming superiority of 
force, and coming in conflict with hostile armies 
immensely inferior in every respect, and also 
ill' directed in every way, that, far more than con- 
spicuous genius in war, caused the utter defeat of 
Austria and France. 

The superiority of Moltke as a director of armies 
is much less conspicuous than in organization for 
war. Yet in this more exalted and arduous sphere 
his remarkable faculties were apparent, and he 
stands on a high, if not on the highest eminence. 
His plan of operations in 1866 remains open to 
adverse comment; but he exhibited great decision, 
and the clearest insight in his arrangements for the 
march, of the Prussian armies, and especially for 
the movement of the Crown Prince, which led to a 
decisive result at Sadowa. His project for the 
defence of Germany against a sudden attack by 
France, anticipated admirably the scheme of the 
enemy; his method of invading France on her 
north-eastern frontier, and forcing her armies north- 
wards, away from Paris, if not original or very 
striking, was perfectly thought out, and the best 
conceivable. In carrying out these operations he 
made mistakes, gave his opponents chances, and 
did not make the most of overpowering superiority of 
force ; but he steadily accomplished even more than 
he had hoped, with boldness, resolution, patience, 

400 MOLTKE. 

forethought ; and the course he adopted to destroy 
Macmahon, his march against the Army of Chalons, 
and the measures he took to ensure its ruin at 
Sedan, if not exploits of supreme genius, show that 
he had many of the faculties of a great warrior. 
If success, too, is to be a test of merit, Moltke's 
triumphs in the first part of the war of 1870 are 
without a parallel in the annals of the world ; and 
if this is a most unsafe criterion, it is at least a 
proof that he had the capacity to turn to account the 
astounding faults of his enemies, and to bring 
suddenly on them appalling ruin. In the second 
part of the war he certainly made a mistake in 
advancing in haste on Paris ; and thus placed the 
Germans, conquerors as they were, in grave peril 
for a considerable time. His conduct, nevertheless, 
in this most trying contest, gives proof of steadfast 
constancy, and, on some occasions, of consummate 
skill and profound judgment. He followed the true 
method to make Paris fall ; and it may be assumed 
that he expected little from the cruel and fruitless 
attack by bombardment. Nothing, too, can have 
been more able than the manner in which he em- 
ployed and strengthened the external zone on a 
vast field of manoeuvre, and than the advantage he 
took of his central position and interior lines 
against the provincial armies ; and though he was 
not the author of the decisive movement of Man- 
teuffel ag^nstBourbaki's army — perhaps the finest 
of the whole war — this was an inspiration derived 
from his teaching. And if we reflect that these 


great acliievements were accomplished by a chief 
far advanced in years, who had not had experience 
in the field, until the ardour and vigour of youth 
had been spent, no impartial observer will deny 
that Moltke has a place amongst the great masters 
of war. 

His place, however, in this illustrious band is not 
one of the very highest eminence. The conceptions 
of his campaigns were not original ; that of 1866 was 
borrowed from Frederick the Grreat — a conception 
distinctly condemned by Napoleon ; that of 1870 
was borrowed from Prussian leaders, who had 
formed it many years before ; and, if excellent, it 
does not display genius. Moltke was never called 
upon to attempt exploits like those before Mantua 
in 1796, like the march on Ulm, and the march that 
led to Marengo ; but he did not possess th^ imagina- 
tive power directing the profound calculation and 
craft, which have given these combinations their 
matchless splendour ; it may safely be affirmed 
that he was unequal to them. In his operations 
in the field, too, we sometimes see a want of 
dexterity and resource ; he ought to have crushed 
the Army of the Rhine, after Worth and Spicheren, 
before it reached Metz ; and he gave opportunities 
more than once to Bazaine, which a real general 
would have made disastrous to him. In his con- 
duct of armies, a deficiency of art, a failure quickly 
to seize the occasion, a rigidity and even a slowness 
of movement, are manifest in several striking 

instances ; he never could have achieved feats of 

D d 

402 MOLTKE. 

arms like Areola, Rivoli, and Montmirail ; and lie 
seems to have been devoid of the gift of surprise 
and stratagem, one of the highest gifts of a great 
captain. But of all these defects the most con- 
spicuous was his constant habit of losing sight of 
his enemy, and of failing to pursue him in defeat ; 
this is the more remarkable because he possessed 
advantages in this sphere of his art, completely 
unknown in former ages ; and it may be the 
consciousness of this, that made him assert that ^ 
" novices," forsooth, are those who chiefly contend 
'*that pursuit ought always to follow a victory," as 
if the chase of Wurmser through the defiles of the 
Brenta, and the march of the conquerors after 
Jena, do not confute a paradox of the kind. It 
must, moreover, be kept in mind in considering 
Moltke's place as a leader in war that he usually 
had such a superiority of force on his side, and was 
opposed to commanders of so low an order, that he 
could hardly have failed to attain success ; and 
this fact must largely detract from his merits. The 
Austrian army in 1866, the French armies in 1870-1, 
were not to be compared to the Prussian and 
German hosts, in all that constitutes military 
power ; and it was not difficult to overcome chiefs 
of the type of Benedek, Bazaine, and Macmahon, 
especially in the circumstances in which these were 

Certain writers have maintained that, in the 

1 "The Franco-German War," vol. ii. p. 167. English 


conduct of war Moltke hardly committed a single 
mistake. He would have been the first to condemn 
such a notion ; the aphorism of Turenne remains 
true, " he is the greatest general whose faults are 
the fewest," and all generals must fall into error, 
for they must often act on inadequate knowledge. 
Moltke made at least his full share of mistakes, 
apart from what may be called shortcomings. His 
whole strategy in 1866 has been called false by well- 
informed and capable critics ; indeed we believe it 
can be only justified on the assumption that he had 
no better choice in the situation in which he was 
placed. His disposition of the German armies on 
the frontier in August, 1870, exposed the First 
Army to a perilous attack ; the same may be said 
of his arrangements before Borny, and it is difficult 
to say that he was not to blame for the faults com- 
mitted before Gravelotte — a battle which would 
have been lost to the Germans, immense as was 
their preponderance of force, had Bazaine been 
anything like a chief. In his movements round 
Metz, Moltke, too, exposed his communications in 
a most dangerous way, and that without much 
certainty of success ; and, as General Hamley has 
justly said, he need not have risked a defeat at 
Gravelotte. But the greatest of all his mistakes, 
as we have more than once remarked, was his 
advance on Paris after Sedan ; he thrust himself 
into the heart of France, at the head of 150,000 
men, with the Army of the Rhine at Metz on his 
rear, imprisoned, no doubt, but still a danger; 

D d 2 

404 MOLTKE. 

witli his retreat to Germany almost closed, with a 
gigantic fortress in his immediate front, with a 
great nation that might rise up in arms against 
him, and the results were in a few weeks manifest. 
Moltke was " brought up," so to speak, like a ship 
by a tempest. The German armies spread around 
the capital were perilously exposed for at least 
three months ; their movements were for a time 
most feeble ; they were scarcely able to keep the 
enemy down ; they were nearly compelled to raise 
the siege. Had Metz held out even a fortnight 
longer, and had the Army of the Loire been better 
directed, they would probably have met a serious 
reverse, and they succeeded at last, in the main, 
because they received the enthusiastic support of a 
national crusade. Moltke's strategy is a striking 
instance that an enemy, fallen though he be, is not 
to be despised, and that offensive warfare should 
be conducted on principles proved to be true by 
experience, and if he triumphed after an inter- 
necine conflict, it may confidently be said that he 
could have compelled France to cede the provinces 
she ultimately lost, without running the enor- 
mous risks that were run. 

Moltke, therefore, we think, was not pre-eminent 
in forming the great combinations of war, in the 
art known by the name of strategy, though his 
capacity and excellence are not doubtful. It is 
more difficult to find his true place in the lesser 
but most important sphere of tactics, and that 
chiefly for this reason, that he did not command an 


army in the field, in person, on any occasion. It 
is certain, however, that he thoroughly understood 
that the power of fire would, in modern war, be 
infinitely superior to that of force — a question 
much debated thirty years ago — and that he knew 
well the value of offensive tactics ; and, in theory, 
he was a most learned tactician, even though it 
seems that he was some time in comprehending the 
true relations of the three arms in battles of this 
day. He was not often present in the field, in war ; 
he never, we have said, actually led troops ; and in 
the immense engagements of the present age, when 
a general cannot embrace the whole scene of 
action, and much must be left to subordinates, the 
most perfect tactician will be often at fault. It 
may be said, however, that the three great battles, 
in which Moltke took a real part, Sadowa, G-rave- 
lotte, and Sedan, do not exhibit the tactical genius 
shown at Eamillies, Leuthen, and Austerlitz, the 
masterpieces of tactics in war ; if the attacks at 
Sadowa were well conducted, nay, the best that 
could be made as affairs stood, they are not models 
to be made examples ; the German tactics at Grave- 
lotte were very far from good, and Sedan was little 
more than a massacre. Moltke, it has been said, 
had a marked liking for flanking, rather than for 
frontal attacks; this, indeed, is a tradition of 
Frederick the Great, and in the case of the armies 
of this age, and of the weapons of destruction they 
wield, flanking attacks will be more than ever 
adopted. It is, however, a mistake to pretend that 

406 MOLTKE. 

Moltke's favourite method contrasts with the 
" central attack " of Napoleon ; the great master, 
like all true generals, ever sought to assail the 
flank of his enemy, in preference to merely striking 
his centre in front ; but it was the peculiar merit 
of Napoleon's tactics, that his attacks were usually 
so arranged, as to be the best possible on the 
ground before him, and there was no kind of 
mannerism in these splendid efforts. It has been 
alleged that Moltke's system of tactics often aimed 
at *' holding " the enemy on the spot, with a force 
comparatively small at first, and then of attacking 
him, in front and flank, with masses brought into the 
field in succession, and certainly more than one of 
the battles of 1870-1 exhibit this method. But 
such modes of attack can be only justified when 
the assailant is certain to be superior in numbers 
and force, at the decisive moment; and if it is 
implied that, as a general rule, attacks are to be 
made piecemeal, and without coherence, by separate 
divisions of an army, marched only by degrees to 
the field, all history shows that these tactics are 

Like all chiefs who have excelled in war, espe- 
cially if they have done great things, Moltke has 
deeply impressed the military thought of his time. 
It has been said of him that he has " displaced the 
axis of ideas in the art ; ' and because the organiza- 
tion of the German armies was a main element of 
their prodigious success, it has been hastily inferred 
1 "Le Marcchal de Moltke," by General Lewal, p. 18. 


that mechanism, and not genius in war, is the 
great secret of ensuring victory. Moltke, we have 
seen, has distinctly condemned this notion, and it 
is a great and dangerous mistake. Unquestionably 
training, discipline, and good arrangement, are 
influences of supreme importance, in obtaining 
successful results in war ; as Gibbon has remarked, 
the words that signify an army in the Greek and 
the Latin tongues, almost explain the history of two 
great races. Unquestionably too, the greatest com- 
mander can do comparatively little with a bad 
instrument ; and in the case of the huge armies of 
this age there must be more independence in com- 
mand, and division of labour in the highest grades, 
than was seen in the days of Jena and Austerlitz. 
But now, as always, and now more than ever, for 
war has never before been so vast and rapid, 
superior direction will be the dominant force that 
will achieve success in campaigns and battles ; the 
divine part of the art, in Napoleon's language, will 
more than ever make its magical power felt ; a 
really great captain will more than ever control 
events. The two great wars in which Moltke took 
part bring out this truth, indeed, with peculiar 
clearness. Place Napoleon on the throne of 
Francis Joseph, and can we doubt that he would 
have declared war before the Prussian armies were 
ready, would have struck them down when widely 
apart, and have marched by the Elbe to Berlin in 
triumph? Or give Turenne the staff held by 
Benedek, and we strongly suspect the Crown 

408 MOLTKE. 

Prince's army would have been annihilated before it 
had reached its supports, and have left Prince 
Frederick Charles a prey for his enemy. Or again, 
does anyone suppose that if Moltke had been in 
the position of Napoleon III., he would have played, 
at every point, into his adversary's hands? that 
Wellington would have fought Gravelotte, after the 
fashion of the worthless Bazaine? or that that 
great master of defence would have lent an ear to 
the counsels that doomed the Army of Chalons, 
and would have hesitated to fall back on Paris ? 
Nay, might not the whole course of the war have 
taken a wholly different turn, had Bazaine seized 
the opportunities presented to him, as the General 
of 1796 would have seized them, or had Chanzy had 
the supreme direction of the provincial armies of 
France throughout ? The maxim of Napoleon 
remains true : "A general is the head, the soul of 
an army ; it was Csesar, not the Roman army, who 
conquered Gaul ; it was Hannibal, not the Cartha- 
ginian army, who made the Republic of Rome 
tremble at its gates ; it was not the Macedonian 
army, but Alexander that reached the Indus ; it 
was not the French army that warred on the Weser 
and the Inn, but Turenne ; it was Frederick the 
Great, not the Prussian army, who defended 
Prussia for seven years against the three greatest 
Powers of Europe." * 

It is difficult to determine the place that Moltke 
1 Napoleon, " Comment.," vol. vi. p. 115. Ed. 1867. 


will hold among great warriors, not because, as has 
been absurdly said, the difference between war in the 
present age, and of war in the ages of Turenne and 
Napoleon, makes a really just comparison hopeless; 
but because we do not exactly know the part he 
played in preparing and directing armies, though 
our knowledge is in many respects suflBcient. He 
will be always an idol of the worshippers of suc- 
cess, and he has been naturally raised to a high 
eminence in the opinion of soldiers of his time, for 
he understood better, perhaps, than any other man 
the existing conditions of modern warfare. In the 
judgment of history, nevertheless, we do not believe 
he will be in the very first rank of the few cap- 
tains supreme in the noblest of arts. His figure 
seems dwarfed beside that of Napoleon, of whom 
he has been called, unwisely, the peer; he was 
markedly deficient in some of the gifts and facul- 
ties, which were characteristic of the modern 
Hannibal. Organization was his peculiar province, 
yet he achieved no marvels like the preparations for 
the descent on England in 1803-5, for the cam- 
paigns of 1807 and 1812, for the crossing the 
Danube in 1809 ; and he did not do as much in 
this sphere as Turenne, who transformed a feudal 
militia into an army essentially of a modern aspect, 
and for many years the terror of Europe. In the 
conduct of war he was able in the extreme, his 
conceptions were usually clear and just, his con- 
stancy and daring deserve the highest praise ; but 

410 MOLTKE. 

he was not original, or what may be called sublime ; 
and he was often wanting in dexterity and art. Not 
to speak of the mightiest deeds of Napoleon, which 
have raised him far above all modern warriors, no 
achievement of Moltke was as brilliant as the march 
of Gustavus through " the Priest's Lane," as two or 
three of the marches of Turenne ; no conception of 
his was as splendid and bold as the plan of Villars 
to descend on Vienna, a plan perfectly feasible 
when designed, and that must have changed the 
fortunes of Europe, had it been carried out in 
1703 ; no operation of Moltke was as fine and 
daring as Eugene's advance up the Po on Turin ; 
and the glories of Metz and Sedan, when calmly 
examined, pale beside those of Rivoli, Marengo, 
Jena, and Austerlitz. Napoleon, indeed, has had no 
successor ; but if the mantle of his genius fell on 
anyone, it was not, as has been said, on Moltke ; 
it fell on the great warrior of the South, Lee, whose 
exploits around Richmond were not unworthy of 
those of 1796 and 1814. Nevertheless, Moltke 
must hold a grand place among the leaders of war 
in the nineteenth century; he was certainly 
superior to the Archduke Charles, and to every 
one of Napoleon's Marshals, and he will probably 
attain as high a level as Wellington, with whom he 
had certain points in common, though as an admin- 
istrator he easily surpassed Wellington, while, on 
the other hand, he can show no achievement equal in 
genius and resource to the defence of Portugal. 


In one respect, indeed, it is difficult in the 
extreme to compare Moltke with other grent 
warriors. As he was never actually at the head of 
troops, we do not exactly know what his influence 
was, or might have been, over the German soldiery. 
But he had little imagination, sympathy, or fiery 
passion, and we may feel convinced that he could 
never have attained the magical power over the 
hearts of men possessed by Conde, Marlborough, and 
Villars, and one of the most striking of the gifts 
of Napoleon. We see these defects in his writings 
on war ; they are able, judicious, and well worked 
out, but they are without the sounding march 
and the energy divine of the masterpieces of 
the history of war ; his " Campaign of Italy," for 
instance, one of his best works, is, compared to 
Napoleon's " Campaigns of Italy," what a book of 
Polybius is to a book of Thucydides, or the verse of 
Silius Italicus to the song of Homer. For the rest 
Moltke had little knowledge of men, and was 
deficient in political insight ; he never rose above 
the ideas of a Prussian junker in affairs of State; 
he had nothing of the genius which made Marl- 
borough the most perfect diplomatist of his time, of 
the sagacity of Wellington as a statesman, of the 
extraordinary capacity shown by Napoleon in 
mastering all that relates to international questions, 
to civil administration, to law, and to government. 
We have already glanced at Moltke's private life ; 
we can only repeat that it was a grand example, 

412 MOLTKE. 

of a noble sense of duty, of work well done, of 
purity of conduct, of brilliant social converse, of 
intellectual tastes of the highest order, and of 
all the virtues that make family and home 


Alsace, invasion of, 135 ; cession of, 

Alvensleben, General, attacks at 
Mars La Tour, 150. 

Army, the Austrian, sketoli of, 
52-3 ; defects in, 52-3, 63, 

Army, the French, sketch of, 98, 
seqq. ; complete inferiority of, to 
that of Germany, 103. 

Army, the German, in 1870, concen- 
tration of, in 1870, 115, seqq. ; 
invasion of France by, 129 ; ad- 
vance of ,af terWorth and Spicheren, 
140 ; enormonsly reinforced dar- 
ing the war, 326. 

Army, the Prussian, sketch of, 29- 
34 ; reform of, in 1859-60, 34-42 ; 
great increase of, after 1866, 94 ; 
reforms in, 95-6. 

Assembly, the National, of France, 
at Bordeaux, 364 ; accepts the 
Treaty of Frankfort, 377. 

Austria at v?ar with Prussia in 1866, 
43 ; stands at first on the defen- 
sive, 44 ; completely defeated, and 
loses her supremacy in Germany, 
80 ; perhaps a secret ally of France 
in 1870, 111. 


Bapatimb, battle of, 351. 

Bazaine, Marshal, his negligence 
when near Spicheren, 130 ; made 
commander-in-chief of the French 
armies, 141 ; his retreat from 
Metz, 143 ; his conduct at Borny, 
144 ; his retreat to Mars La Tour, 
148-9 ; his conduct at Mars La 
Tour, 150-5 ; what he might have 
achieved after Mars La Tour, 
154-5 ; he places the French Army 
in positions round Gravelotte, 
156-7; his incapacity at Grave- 

lotte, 167, seqq. ; he is invested 
at Metz, 174, seqq. ; he misses 
another great opportunity, 177; 
his conduct during the siege of 
Metz, 242, seqq. ; at Noisseville, 
245 ; his negligence and waste, 
251 ; his dealings with Eegnier, 
252 ; he sends an aide-de-camp to 
negotiate with Bismarck, 253; he 
stands aloof from the Provisional 
Government, 254 ; his conduct 
treasonable, 256 ; he surrenders 
Metz, 259 ; the results fatal to 
France, 258. 

Beaune La Rolando, battle of, 284. 

Belfort, siege of, 307 ; fall of, 376. 

Benedek, General, in command of 
the Austrian Army in 1866, 53 ; 
his advance from Briinn and 
Olmiitz, 54; his projects, 55; he 
loses a great opportunity, 59 ; ia 
defeated in a series of combats 
and battles, 60-2 ; retreats behind 
the Bistritz, 65 ; he is defeated at 
Sadowa, 79 ; his retreat, reflec- 
tions on his operations, 90-1. 

Bismarck, Count and Prince, policy 
of, 28, 44; at Sadowa, 76; in- 
trigues of, with Napoleon III., 97, 
108 ; arouses the fury of Paris in 
1870, 109; at Sedan, 208; nego- 
tiates with Favre, 221 ; dealings 
of, with Bazaine, 253-4 ; opposed to 
the bombardment of Paris, 35h ; 
and perhaps to the cession of 
Alsace and Lorraine, 378. 

Bittenfield, General, commands the 
Army of the Elbe, 47. 

Bohemia, invasion of, 51. 

Borny, battle of, 144. 

Bourbaki, General, sent from Metz 
to see the Empress, 252-3; makes 
a demonstration against the 
Grand Duke and Prince Frederick 
Charles, 319; is sent ofif by Gam- 
betta to the East with the First 
Army of tho Loire, 341 ; Buccesstul 



at Villersexel, 354 ; defeated on 
the Lisaine in the battles of 
Hericoart, 358 ; his army excepted 
from the armistice, retreats to 
Besan^on, 372 ; his desperate con- 
dition, 372-3 ; he is goaded by 
Gambetta, and tries to kill him- 
self, 373. 

Canbobert, Marshal, his conduct at 
Mars La Tour, 150 ; at Gravelotte, 

Chalons, Army of, commanded by 
Macmahon, 180 ; its bad quality, 
181 ; its march to the Meuse, 
184, seqq. ; its condition before 
Sedan, 197 ; it is routed at Sedan 
and compelled to lay down its 
arms, 203-10. 

Chanzy, General, commands part of 
the Army of the Loire at Coul- 
miers, 268-9 ; his wise counsels 
to D'Aurelle not followed, 277 ; 
he commands at Yillepion and 
Loigny, 286; falls back west of 
Orleans, 288; he is largely rein- 
forced, and confronts the Grand 
Duke and Prince Frederick 
Charles, 312, seqq. ; great ability 
of, 314, seqq. ; his masterly retreat 
from the Loire, 315, seqq.; is 
attacked at Vendome, and retreats 
to the Sarthe and Le Mans, 317 ; 
his admirable views as to the 
situation in the last part of the 
war, 335 ; his advice to Gambetta, 
336 ; he is attacked by the Grand 
Duke and Prince Frederick 
Charles, 343 ; his skill, 343 ; he is 
only just defeated at Le Mans, 
347 ; he falls back to Laval, 349 ; 
and restores his army, 349-50 ; 
his able plans for the continuance 
of the war, 367-8 ; his resolve to 
tight to the last, 377. 

Clinchant, General, takes the com- 
mand of Bourbaki's army, 373 ; 
directs it towards Pontarlier, 374 ; 
it is forced over the frontier of 
Switzerland, 375. 

Colombey Nouilly, battle of (see 

Confederation of the North of Ger- 
many, 94, seqq. 

Copenhagen, military school of, 4. 

Coulmiers, battle of, 268-9 ; its results 

frustrated from several causes, 
270-1, 274. 

Cremer, General, in command of the 
French in the East, conduct of, at 
the battles of Hericourt, 357. 

Crown Prince of Prussia, the, his 
operations in Bohemia, 51, seqq. ; 
he is directed to march on Sadowa, 
67 ; his movement decides the 
result of the day, 76, seqq. ; he 
commands the Third Army in 1870, 
116 ; his conduct at Worth, 123 ; 
be advances into France with the 
Third Army, 135 ; his advance 
against the Army of Chalons, 179 ; 
he leads the Third Army to Sedan, 
200, seqq. ; and to Paris, 216. 


D'AuKELLE, General, commands the 
Army of the Loire at Coulmiers, 
268-9 ; question if he should have 
advanced on Paris, 272 ; he falls 
back on Orleans, 273 ; is defeated, 
289 ; unjustly deprived of his 
command, 300. 

Decaen, General, killed at Borny, 

Diebitsch, General, 21, 229. 

Ducrot, General, commands part of 
the Army of Chalons, 186 : wise 
projects of, before Sedan, 198; at 
Sedan, 203 ; in Paris, commands 
the 14th corps, 224 ; views of, for 
the defence of Paris, 229, seqq. ; 
obliged to abandon his project, 
293 ; commands in the great sortie, 
294, seqq. ; at battle of Villiers, 
295 ; falls back, 295-8 ; commands 
in sorties of 21st December and 
19th January, 323, 362. 


East, Army of, 241 (see Garibaldi 

and Cremer). 
Elbe, Army of, invades Saxony, 50 ; 

with the First Army, 60-1 j at 

Sadowa, 73. 

Faidheebe, General, commands the 
Army of the North, 320 : tights an 
indecisive battle on the Hallue, 



321 ; snooessfal at Bapaume, 351 ; 
defeated at St. Quentin, 352. 

Failly, General, 122, 133; defeated 
at Nouart and Beaumont, 195. 

Farre, General, at Villers Breton- 
nenx, 305. 

Favre, Foreign Minister of the Pro- 
visional Government, 221 ; nego- 
tiates with Bismarck, 221, 364. 

First Army assembled in 1866 (see 
Prince Frederick Charles). 

First Army assembled in 1870 (see 
Steinmetz, Prince Frederick 
Charles, Mantenffel, and Goeben). 

France, Invasion of, 121; prostration 
of, 216 ; national rising of, 235, 
seqq. ; immense but misdirected 
efforts of, 302-3 ; was wise in re- 
sisting to the last, 383-4. 

Frankfort, Treaty of, 378. 

Fransecky, General, fine conduct of, 
at Sadowa, 74 

Frederick Charles, Prince, opera- 
tions of, in Saxony and Bohemia, 
51, seqq. ; begins the attack at 
Sadowa, 73, seqq. : commands the 
Second Army in 1870, 116; ad- 
vances after Worth and Spicheren, 
135 ; conduct of, before Mars La 
Tour, 147 ; commands the First 
and Second Armies at Metz, 174; 
ordered to march to the aid of 
Tann, 271 ; reaches the country 
around Orleans, 279; defeats the 
Army of the Loire, 289 ; attacks 
Chanzy and is baffled, 316; falls 
back to obtain reinforcements, 
319 ; advances with the Grand 
Duke against Chanzy, 341 ; suc- 
cessful at Le Mans, 347 ; gives up 
the pursuit of Chanzy, 349. 

Frederick the Great, the Prussian 
Army under, 29 ; operations of, in 
1756 and 1757 condemned by 
Napoleon, 82.3. 


Gallas, Clam, General, faulty con- 
duct of, 55, seqq. 

Gambetta, real leader of the French 
nation, 220 ; appeals to France to 
rise, 234; energy and genius of, 
235, seqq. ; collects immense rein- 
forcements for the Army of the 
Loire, 230 ; makes fatal mistakes, 
283-5 ; continues to increase the 
French armies, 332 ; disregards 

the advice of Chanzy, and sends 

Bourbaki to the East, 338. 
Garibaldi, commands the French in 

the East, 335. 
Germany, Southern States of, allies 

of Prussia after 1866, 94 ; national 

passions of, in 1870, 117, 30J. 
Gitschin, battle at, 61. 
Goeben, General, commands the 

First Army, and wins the battle 

of St. Quentin, 352. 
Gouvion St. Cyr, Marshal, 99. 
Giavelotte, battle of, 160, seqq. 

Hadzchi, Pacha, 15. 

Hafiz, Pacha, 15 ; defeated at 

Nisib, 16. 
Hallue, battle on, 321. 
Herioourt, battles of, on the Lisaiue, 


Ibrahim, Pacha, victorious at Nisib, 

Italy, perhaps secret ally of France 

in 1870, 111. 


Jaubeguibbery, Admiral, a lieu- 
tenant of Chanzy, 311 ; efforts of, 
at Le Mans, 347. 


Kameke, General, attacks at Spiche- 
ren, 128. 

Kirchbach, General, fine conduct of, 
at Worth, 129. 

Koniggratz, battle of (see Sadowa). 

L'Admirault, General, 144, 160. 

La Fere, fall of, 305. 

Laon, fall of, 240. 

Le Boeuf, Marshal, at Gravelotte, 

Le Brnn, General, commands part of 

the Army of Chiilons, 186. 
Leo, General, 82. 



Le Mans, battle of, 346-7. 

Loigny, combat of, 286. 

Loire, Army of, formed by. Gam- 
betta, 268 ; gains a victory at 
Coulmiers, 269 ; withdrawn to 
Orleans, 273 ; increased by Gam- 
betta, 280; excellent position of, 
282 ; part of, is defeated at Beaune 
La Rolande, 284 ; defeated at 
Orleans, 287-8 ; divided into the 
First and Second Armies (see 
Chanzy, D'Aurelle, Gambetta, 
and Bourbaki). 

Lorraine, invasion of, 135 ; cession 
of, 378. 


Macmahon, Marshal, the Dnke of 
Magenta, tactics of, at Worth, 
127 ; mistakes of, 127 ; defeated at 
Worth and retreats in disorder, 
133 ; commands the Army of 
Chalons, 180; his fatal decision to 
march to the relief of Bazaine, 
184 ; his grave misconduct in per- 
sisting in the march, 192; illu- 
sions of, before Sedan, 196 ; weak 
conduct of, 199 ; wounded at 
Sedan, 203 ; his conduct to be 
condemned, 213. 

MantenfFel, General, commands the 
First Army on the Hallue, 341 ; 
admirable operations of, against 
Bourbaki* s army, 369-76. 

Marlborough, 115, 207. 

Mars La Tour, battle of, 149, seqq. 

Mecklenburg, Grand Duke of, sent to 
the aid of Tann after Coulmiers, 
271 ; sent off again to the 
West, 278 ; joins Prince Frederick 
Charles, 284 ; takes part in the 
defeat of the Army of the Loire, 
286-7; advances against Chanzy, 
309 ; attacks him in vain, 312-13 ; 
is bafiBed by Chanzy, 316; falls 
back for reinforcements, 319 ; ad- 
vances with Prince Frederick 
Charles again against Chanzy, 
341 ; baffled at Le Mans, 346 ; sent 
to Normandy, 349. 

Metz, investment of, 174 ; fall of, 
242, seqq. (see Bazaine, Napoleon 

Mouse, Army of, formed by Moltke, 
173 ; takes part in the operations 
against the Army of Chalons, 188 ; 
at Sedan, 201, eeqq. ; marches to 

Paris, 216 ; takes part in the in- 
vestment, 223. 

Mezieres, should have been point 
of Macmahon'a retreat, 198 ; fall 
of, 306. 

Moltke, Adolph, 11. 

Moltke, Helmuth Charles Bernard, 
Field-Marshal, Count, born at 
Parchim, 3 ; sent to the military 
school of Copenhagen, 4 ; obtains 
a commission in the Danish army, 
6 ; and afterwards in the Prussian 
army, 6; is attached to the Staff 
College at Berlin, 6; employed in 
surveying, 8; at Frankfort, 9; 
made captain, 10 ; early writings, 
10-11 ; domestic life and tastes of, 
11 ; travels in the East, 12, seqq. ; 
reforms of, in the Turkish army, 
14; in Asia Minor, 15, seqq. ; 
anecdote of his courage, 15 ; ac 
the battle of Nisib, 16 ; his 
"Letters on the East," 16; made 
major, 18; on the staff of the 4th 
Corps, 18 ; his work on the war of 
1828-9 in Roumelia, 20 ; made aide- 
de-camp of Prince Henry of 
Prussia, 22 ; at Eomeand in Spain, 
22; made colonel, 22; thinks of 
leaving the army, 23 ; views of, 
on 184S, 23; made Chief of the 
StaflF of the 4th Corps, 23; at 
Magdeburg, 24 ; becomes friend 
of the Crown Prince, afterwards 
King and Emperor, 24 ; import- 
ance of this, 24 ; is made general, 
25 ; aide-de-camp of Prince Frede- 
rick, afterwards Emperor, 25; in 
England, 25; "Letters of, on 
Russia," 25-26; experiences of 
Paris, remarks of, on French 
army, 26-7; made Chief of the 
General Staff, 28 ; co-operates 
with the King and Roon in re- 
forming the Prussian army, 35; 
his work on the Staff, 36 ; his 
great influence in the work of 
military reform, 36-42 ; his work 
on the campaign of 1859 in Italy, 
37; projects of, in the war of 
1866 frustrated, 45 ; he assembles 
the Prussian armies on the fron- 
tiers of Saxony and Bohemia, 47 ; 
alternatives presented to him, 49 ; 
he invades Saxony and Bohemia 
on a double line of operations, 
50 ; he reaches the theatre of war, 
64; moves towards the Elbe, 64; 
directs the moyements of the 



Crown Prince to Sadowa, 67-8 ; 
atipcdote of, on the field, 76 ; his 
skilful but cautious advance on 
Vienna, 79 ; he cuts Benedek oft", 
80; reflections on his operations 
in 1866,81, seqq. ; co-operates in 
the reforms made in the Prussian 
and German armies after Sadowa, 
96 ; plan of campaign of, in 1870 ; 
113, seqq. ; probably misses a great 
opportunity after Worth and 
Spicheren, 136 ; operations of, in 
the advance to the Moselle, 140 
and after Borny, 14'S, seqq. 
whether he made a mistake, 147 
he directs the operations that lead 
to Gravelotte, 159 ; how far re- 
sponsible for the mistakes made, 
166; he forms the Army of the 
Mense, 173 ; invests Metz, 174 ; 
line operations of, against the 
Army of Chalons, 188-9; harsh 
conduct of, at the capitulation of 
Sedan, 208 ; he directs the Army 
of the Meuse and the Third Army 
to Paris, 215; fault of this strategy, 
215 ; he invests Paris, 223, seqq. ; 
treats the resistance of Paris and 
France with contempt, 238-9 ; his 
good fortune in the surrender of 
Metz, 258 ; he directs the First 
and Second Armies to strengthen 
the external zone round Paris, 
262-3; he strengthens the posi- 
tions of the besiegers, 263 ; makes 
a mistake in these operations, 
266 ; prepares to raise the siege 
of Paris after Coulmiers, 271 ; is 
at last convinced of the power of 
the resistance of the French na- 
tion, 275; sends the Grand Duke 
to the West in error, 279 ; directs 
the attack on the Army of the 
Loire at Orleans, 287 ; still further 
strengthens the external zone, 
306, seqq. ; his position around 
Paris becomes formidably strong, 
310; he withdraws Prince Frede- 
rick Charles and the Grand Duke 
from the pursuit of Chanzy, 318; 
beconies master of the situation 
round Paris, 326 ; conspicuous 
ability of, in the later stages of 
the war, 330; dislikes bombarding 
Paris, 359 ; sends an army under 
Manteufiel to attack Bourbaki, 
369 ; he insists on the cession of 
Alsace and Lorraine, 378 ; his un- 
wisdom in this, 379 ; his great 

position at the end of the war, 
386; honours bestowed on him, 
386 ; the later years of his life, 
387 ; his attitude in the Reich- 
stag and House of Peers, 389 ; his 
pursuits at Creisau, 390, seqq. ; 
his literary and scientific tastes, 
391 ; his theological sympathies 
and piety, 391-2 ; his last years 
as Chief of the Staft", 394; he 
resigns the oflBce, 394 ; national 
festival on the anniversary of his 
90th birthday, 395 ; his peaceful 
death, 396 ; estimate of his career, 
his achievements, and character, 
397, 411. 

Moltke, Ludwig, 11, 19. 

Moltke, Marie, wife of Moltke, her 
character, 19 ; her death, 20. 

Montmedy, fall of, 306. 

Muncheugratz, combat at, 61. 


Nachod, battle of, 16. 

Napoleon, 29, 30, 55 ; he condemns 
the operations of Frederick the 
Great in 1756 and 1757, 82-3, 99, 
110, 192 note ; remarks upon the 
surrender of Maxen,259 note, 371, 

Napoleon III. baffled after Sadowa, 
97 ; attempts of, to increase and 
reform the French army frustra- 
ted, 103 ; reluctantly consents to 
the war with Germany, 109 ; his 
plan for the campaign, 110-11 ; 
he reaches Metz and perhaps 
misses an opportunity, 118 ; fatal 
hesitation of, after Worth and 
Spicheren, 138;he leavesthe Army 
at Metz, 149 ; with Macmahon and 
the Army of Chalons, 180 ; disap- 
proves of the march of Macmahon, 
196; at Sedan, 207. 

Nisib, battle of, 16. 

Noisseville, battle of, 245. 

North, Army of (see Farre, Faid- 


Okleaks, battle of, and defeat of the 
Army of the Loire, 287-8. 


Parceim, birthplace of Moltke, 3. 

E e 



Paris, excitement of, whea war de- 
clared in, 1870, 109 ; evil inflaence 
of opinion of, in the operations of 
the French, 118, 132, 138, 183, 
192; revolution in, 219; Pro- 
visional Government formed in, 
220 ; preparations of, to stand a 
siege, 221, seqq. ; description of 
natural and artificial defences of, 
225, seqq. ; investment of, 228, 
seqq. ; energy of the citizens, 232, 
seqq. ; outbreak in, 234 ; great 
sortie from, 289, seqq. ; sortie 
from 21st December, 323 ; heroic 
and patient attitude of, 325 ; the 
forts and enceinte bombarded, 
358-9; and the city, 360; com- 
plete failure of the attack, 361 ; 
last sortie from, 362 ; partial rising 
in, 363 ; sufferings of the popula- 
tion, 364; capitulation of, 364. 

Paschen, Henrietta, mother of 
Moltke, 3. 

Peronne, fall of, 351. 

Prague, treaty of, 80. 

Prussia, at war with Austria and the 
German Confederation in 1866, 
43 ; stands at first on the de- 
fensive, 43 ; victorious in 1866, 
80 ; head of the Confederation of 
the North of Germany, 93 ; ag- 
grandisement of, after Sadowa, 93. 


Reinforcements, immense, sent to 
the German armies, 333. 

Rhine, Army of, 112 ; slow con- ' 
centration of, in 1870, 112; dis- 
semination of, on the French 
frontier, 113 ; dangerous position 
of, in August, 120; retreat of, 
after Worth and Spicheren, 137-8; 
defeated at Mars La Tour, 149; 
and at Gravelotte, 160; invested 
at Metz, 174 ; is surrendered by 
Bazaine, 256. 

Ronciere de Noury, Admiral, takes 
part in the sortie of 2l3t December, 

Roon, Minister of War of Prussia, 
co-operates with the King and 
Moltke in reforming the Prussian 
army, 28. 


SADOWi, battle of, 69, seqq. (see 

Sarrebruck, skirmish of, 118. 

Saxony, invasion of, 50. 

Second Army assembled in 1866 and 
under the command of the Crown 
Prince of Prussia (see Crown 
Prince of Prussia). 

Second Army assembled in 1870, 
and under the command of Prince 
Frederick Charles (see Prince 
Frederick Charles). 

Sedan, battle of, 202, seqq. 

Skalitz, battle of, 62. 

Soor, battle at, 61. 

Soult, Marshal, 38, 99, 100. 

Spicheren, battle of, 128, seqq. 

St. Quentin, battle of, 352. 

Steinmetz, General, he commands 
the First Army in 1870, 116; 
advances after Worth and Spiche- 
ren, 140 ; his conduct at Grave- 
lotte, 162. 

Strasbourg, siege and fall of, 240. 


Tann, General, defeated at Coul- 
miers, 269 ; skilful retreat of, 270. 

Thionville, fall of, 306. 

Third Army, the (see Crown Prince 
of Prussia). 

Tonl, fall of, 240. 

Trautenau, battle at, 61. 

Trochu, General, nominal head of 
the Provisional Government, 220 : 
views of, as to the defence of 
Paris, 229 ; weakness of, 324 ; re- 
moved from the supreme com- 
mand, 363. 

Turenne, 38, 210, 216, 318, 407, 409. 


Verdun, attempt of French to re- 
treat on, 142 ; fall of, 262. 

Villars, 118; remarks of, on the 
surrender at Blenheim, 259 note. 

Villepion, combat at, 286. 

Villers Bretonneux, battle of, 305. 

Villiers, battle of, 295. 

Vinoy, General, his retreat from 
Mezierea, 217 ; in command in 
Paris, 222 ; takes part in the great 
sortie, 296 ; in that of 21st Decem- 
ber, 323; and of 19th January, 


Wellington, 38, 379, 408. 



Werder, General, occupies Alsace, 
265; at Dijon and besieges Bel- 
fort, 307; defeated at Villersexel, 
35-4; wins the battles of Herioourt 
on the Lisaine, 354-8. 

William, King of Prussia and Em- 
peror, appoints Moltke Chief of 
the General Staff, 28 ; opposed to 
offensive operations in 1868, 45 ; 
with the enemy in 1863, 61, seqq. ; 
and in 1870, 113 ; proclaimed 
Emperor at Versailles, 361. 

Wimpffen, General, mistakes of, at 
Sedan, 211 ; represents the French 
army at the capitulation, 208. 

Wissembourg, combat at, 121. 

Wolseley, General Lord, 85-6 

Worth, battle of, 123, seqq. 

Zastrow, General, 128. 





Preface, p. 5, line 15,/or "organization," read "organisation." 
Contents, p. 14, line 'iO, for " Loire," read " Loir." 
List of Illustrations, p. 16, line Z,for " Emperor of France " read 
"Emperor of the French." 

Us., line 8, for " Emperor of Germany " read " German Em- 

Text, p. 49, line U,for " 130 " read " 200." 

p. 81, line 26, note,/6ir " en " read " on." 

p. 90, line 32, for " inertie '' read " d'inertie." 

p. 96, line 17, for " sound " read " record." 

j5. 116, line 19, insert " nearly " before " half a million." 

p. 122, lines 24-5, insert "and" heticeen " Froschvviller Elsass- 

hausen," and dele " and Morsbronn." 
p. 135, line 22, for " the strategy " read "this strategy." 
p. 143, line 11, for "fully " read " effectually." 
p. 153, line 25, for " on" read "in." 
p. 136, line 24; for " beaten " read " shaken." 
p. 156, line 18, /or " formed " read " found." 
p. 157, lines 9-10, for " every hamlet and building" read "hamlets 

and buildings ; "for " an outwork " read " outworks." 
Hid., line 12, for "reserved " read " massed." 
p. 162, line 22, for "in the close columns of the days of his youth " 

read "in columns described as close by eye-witnesses. " 
p. 187, line I'd, for " fifty " read " forty." 
p. 191, line 11, for " thirty " read " twenty." 
p. 196, line 15, for " fifty miles " read " seventy miles." 
p. 243, last line, for " Rivere'' read " Riviere." 
p. 249, line 2S, for " compagne " read " campagne." 
p. 258, line 25, for " Baylon " read " Baylen." 
p. 293, line 21, for " now " read "lately." 
p. 304, Ziwe 16,/or " Loire " read " Loir." 
p. 321, line 21, fur " Gurre " read " Guerre." 
p. 339, ^iwe l,for " successes " re«cZ " success." 
p. 369, Zme 5, for " Second Army " read " First Army." 
iiic?., line 16, last word add " the." 
p. 376, Z/iie 20, for " Loire" reat^ " Rhine." 
p. 377, Z»ze 28, for " we " reacZ " for us." 
p. 410, Z/hg is, for " was not" 7-cf«Z " did not." 



Page 10. Moltke's works on " Belgium and Holland," and on 
" Poland and its present State," have been reprinted since the pub- 
lication of this volume. The first singularly confirms the view I 
have taken of Moltke's want of political insight ; the second is an 
able resume of the ancient History of Poland, but carefully con- 
cealing the truth as tothe crime of the Partition, the reason, probably, 
that it was praised at Berlin. 

Page 24. The hatred to France, repeatedly displayed by Moltke, 
is conspicuously evident in an essay, by him, on " The Western 
Boundary," also republished since this volume made its appearance. 
It is a mere caricatui-e of history, expressing, in offensive language, 
the ferocity of Bliicher's camp after Waterloo, and painfully sug- 
gestive of what the results would be, to the world, if the military 
supremacy of Germany were to become absolute. 

Page 41. The writer in the United Service Magazine, of January, 
1894, referred to in the Preface, has denied that the " Retrospect 
of the Tactical Retrospect " is from the pen of Moltke. Colonel 
Ouvry, the English translator of this book, says it is, " so far as the 
tactical reasoning goes," — that is essentially to all intents and 

Page 49. "The Prussian Staff History" {p. 29) says that "the 
three main Prussian armies stood in three groups at Torgau, 
Gorlitz, and Neisse, which were distant from each other from 100 
to 125 miles." There must be some mistake here : the distance from 
Torgau to Neisse is certainly 200 miles. 

Page 76, note. A writer in the Pall Mall Gazette contemptuously 
maintains that it was " the hoariest of chestnuts " — Grub Street, 
I presume, for true stories — that Bismarck, and not Moltke, offered 
the famous cigar. Be it so. Mighty is " the difference between 
Tweedledum and Tweedledee." 

Page 88. A writer in the JEdinhurgh Review of April, 1894, is the 
only critic who has seriously examined my account of Moltke's strategy 
in Bohemia in 1866. He tacitly accepts many of my views, and only 
traverses indirectly, and in part, the conclusions I have formed ; 
but he charges me with inconsistency and self-contradiction ; 
with having made an important omission, which practically conceals 
the real position of affairs, at a momentous crisis ; and with, at 
least, two rather grave misstatements. I shall briefly consider these 
assertions, made, as they are, with extreme confidence. I. The 
reviewer says, that I am at odds with myself, and [p. 415) have 
" given the whole case away," because, while I have condemned " the 
double line of operations in 1886," I have told " us elsewhere, that if 
fault is to be found with Moltke's strategy, this must be attributed, 
in the 'main, to a position of affairs, which was in no sense of his 
making,'' not " choosing " a wrong quotation. Now I have con- 
tended, with all the best commentators, that Moltke's advance into 
Bohemia, on double lines, was " too hazardous in conception," and 


" exposed the Prussian armies to great dangers; " but I have also 
argued, that as Moltke was not responsible for the extreme dissemi- 
nation of the Prussian armies, the "situation," " i/i the main,' 
excuses his strategy. But I have not said that he was wholly 
free from blame, which the reviewer was bound to establish, in order 
to convict me of " inconsistency and self-contradiction ; " on the 
contrary, I have maintained that his operations were, in a certain 
measure, censurable, even after making every assumption that can 
be made in his favour. Qualified blame is not absolute blame ; the 
reviewer has disregarded this distinction ; and his accusation, I sub- 
mit, resting on a false basis, does not show that my statements are 
inconsistent or contradictory. If. The reviewer {p. 432) says that, 
I have not only omitted " all reference to the date of the order for 
concentration," for the advance into Bohemia, on double lines, but 
that I have " ignored the information on which Moltke acted." I 
admit that, in a very brief sketch, I did not allude to Moltke's order 
in terms ; but as I gave the date of the movements, instantly made, 
in compliance with it, this omission is, obviously, quite immaterial. 
As to my having ignored the information on which Moltke acted," I 
have distinctly pointed out what the situation was, having regard to 
the facts within Moltke's knowledge, when he directed that Bohemia 
should be invaded; I have said that this "involved the drawing to- 
gether of large masses, divided by wide distances . . . and the 
assembling them, in a hostile country, where the Austrians might 
be collected in force, a contingency by no means improbable," and 
this exactly corresponds with the information at the time in 
Moltke's possession. For, though it is true that his letter of in- 
structions, of 22nd June, 1866, asserts that it was improbable " that 
the main Army of Austria can, in the next few days, be concen- 
trated in Bohemia " — that is near the double line of the Prussian 
advance — the " Prussian Staff History " {p. 62) unequivocally 
admits, that at this very moment "how far a concentration of the 
mainforce of the enemy had proceeded, in Northern Bohemia, was not 
known ; " that is, it was unknown whether the Austrians were, or were 
not, in proximity to the invaders. The omission I have made is, 
therefore, of no importance ; and certainly I have not " ignored the 
information on which Moltke acted." And here I must add that 
this impassioned advocate of Moltke has condemned his client far 
more decidedly, though by implication, than I have done. Most 
incautiously he has let slip the words : " if Von Moltke had issued 
the order without definite knowledge of the Austrian movements; 
if it had been possible for Benedek to have assembled his army in 
Northern Bohemia before the Crown Prince and Prince Frederick 
Charles could join hands; the march of the First Army would have 
been simply foolhardy." But, in the first place, as a matter of 
fact, Moltke, on the 22nd and 23rd of June "had not a definite 
knowledge of the Austrian movements ; " in the second place, 
Benedek, as a matter of probabilitv, " could have assembled his army 
in Northern Bohemia before the Crown Prince and Prince Frederick 
Charles" effected their junction, and actually, to a considerable 
extent, did so ; and therefore the reviewer has damned Moltke with 
his " it's," and has, in his own words, completely " given up the 
case" of his idol. III. The reviewer says (p. 433) that my criticism 
is " fair," when 1 wrote that on the " 20th and 27th of June, and 
until after the end of the 27th," " Benedek had time, and space 


enongh, to assail the Crown Prince in overwhelming numbers, and 
that he let a grand opportunity slip ; " he only maintains that I 
have made a misstatement, inasmuch as my " dates are inaccurate." 
On this point 1 join issue with the writer, and refer him to Derre- 
cagaix, i. 292, the " Austrian Staff History, iii. 49, and even the " Prus- 
sian Staff History," 67 — ; these authorities show that my dates are 
correct, and refute him completely. IV. The last misstatement 
alleged against me is {p. 445) that I have asserted that "the mes- 
sage sent to the Crown Prince," on the eve of Sadowa, " was en- 
trusted^ to a single ofBcer; " and I am kindly referred to the 
" Prussian Staff History," as if I had never read it. My statement 
may or may not be erroneous ; but the meaning of the " Prussian 
Staff History" (p. 166) may well be that one officer was sent to 
Kamenitz, the Head Quarters of Prince Frederick Charles, and only 
one to Koniginhof, the Headquarters of the Crown Prince ; and 
Colonel Lecomte — Jomiai's chief aide-de-camp — expressly says, in 
his most valuable " History of the War of 1866" (tome i., p. 406) 
"C'etait bien confiant, de la part du General de Moltke, de se 
contenter d'un seul messager." I flatter myself, therefore, that I 
have answered the reviewer, on every point, sucessfuUy. I could 
charge him with incapacity in reasoning, and in dealing with 
evidence, and with a want of comprehension of war, in its higher 
aspects ; but I simply turn his own guns against him. In the 
courteous language he has employed towards myself, " his methods 
are so diametrically opposed to our own ideas of judicious military 
criticism, his comparisons are so misleading, and his errors as to 
fact are so numerous — that we find something to quarrel with in 
every page." 

Page 122. The critic in the Pall Mall Gazette above mentioned, 
says that Macniahon summoned Failly to his assistance on August 
5th, not on the 6th. He is in error. Macmahon sent a message to 
Failly on the 5th ; but it was not until the 6th that he ordered 
Failly to join him, and then with one division only. See Failly's 
apology, and Derrecagaix : " La Guerre Moderne," ii. 179. 

Page 123 — 6. The TJiiited Service Magazine writer, minute, but not 
I^hilosophic — he reminds me of Wellington's phrase, " damned 
particularising " — contends that my sketch of Worth " bristles with " 
" inaccuracies." He has, I think, shown that Morsbronn was not, 
" in part, fortified " — some of the houses were, perhaps, crenelated — 
and Macmahon's artillery contained " mitrailleuses," as well as 
cannon proper, as if a mitrailleuse was not of the nature of "a 
gun." But the rest of his carping fails, and simply jjroves that he 
has not mastered the general character, or the details of the battle. 
The 5th Prussian Corps did " fall boldly on " on the morning of 
August 1st ; the 2ad Bavarian and the 11th Prussian Corps did co- 
operate with it; and their efforts did " completely fail." Even the 
Prussian Staff History, i. 163, cannot conceal the truth ; and Derre- 
cagaix : "La Guerre Moderne," ii. 1S7, says, "all heures du matin, 
I'offensive des Allemands avait ete repoussee, sur toute la ligne. 
Notre succes etait nettement affirmde." The Crown Prince " did 
send orders to suspend the course of the fight for a time ; " this is 
stated in terms, in the Prussian Staff History, i. 163, and in Derre- 
cagaix, ii. 189. A part, and a considerable part, of the " French 
riffht" "was compelled to fall back towards the centre, round 
Elsasshausen ;" and if the main body retreated on the Grossewald, 


in the rear of Elsassliausen, this is immaterial. The charges of the 
French cavah-y were at least as " fine " as that of the Six Hundred at 
Balaclava, which the critic, unlike Tennyson, sneers at ; they were 
'• magnifique," if not "la guerre," and they did give considerable 
relief to the French infantry. Derrecagaix, ii. 193. Lastly, the 1st 
Bavarian Corps did " make the overwhelming pressure impossible to 
withstand," as may be gathered from the Prussian Staff History, 
i. 191, and from the Staff map of the battle. Derrecagaix, ii. 195, 
expressly says, " le ler corps bavarois etait entie en ligne, et avait 
donne un nouvel elan a I'offensive." 

Page 37. A critic in the Broad Arrow challenges my conclusion, 
that " Moltke let a grand opportunity slip," after Worth and 
Spicheren, and failed " to strike a blow that might have been 
decisive." It might be enough to refer him to my note, quoting 
from Major Adams, who makes this charge against Moltke; but as 
he has invited me to " work out the problem," I will meet him. On 
the evening of August 6th, Macraahon's forces, the right wing of tlie 
Army of the llhine, were flying routed towards Haguenau and 
Saverne ; and if a division of Failly's corps in some measure 
covered the retreat, and the German cavalry reserves were not in the 
front, still there was no reason why a vigorous pursuit should not 
have been begun, and why it should not have been successful. But 
as the Prussian Staff History, i. 198, admits, "the Quarter Staff of 
the Third Army was at first quite ignorant of the enemy's line of 
retreat," because they did not follow it ; and when a feeble and 
tardy pursuit was ordei-ed, it was in a wholly wrong direction. 
Moltke is not, perhaps, to be blamed for this, as he was far away ; 
but he certainly seems to have approved of it : the Third Army did 
not even move until August 8th, and it lost all contact with an 
utterly defeated enemy. As regards the remaining parts of the 
Army of the Rhine, the centre and the left wing, the case against 
Moltke is much worse. Spicheren fought, also, on August 6th, 
shattered the 2nd corps of Frossard, and placed the 3rd, 4th, and 5th 
corps and the Guards in grave danger, standing as they nearly were 
on a front to a flank ; and with the exception, perhaj^s, of the 5th 
corps, these forces retreated in a thoroughly demoralised state, 
as "is attested by many witnesses. See Bazaine "L'Armee du 
Ehin," pp. 40, i. " Guerre de 1870, pp. 42, 43, 44. This part of 
the French army had only reached the German Nied, on August 
8th ; at that moment not less than seven German corps, of the First 
and Second Armies, the 1st, 7th, 8th, 3rd, 4th, 10th, and the 
Guards, were assembled around the Middle Sarre, about twenty 
miles distant. Moltke was practically on the spot, and he might 
have directed fully 200,000 victorious troops, against about 135,00l> 
morally beaten troops, with the result that he must all but certainly 
have won a crushing victory, from about the 10th to the 12th of 
August, for the French, in their existing cotiditiou, could hardly have 
escaped. This was not done, and in fact a " grand opportunity " was 
lost, and "a blow that might have been decisive " was not struck, 
I should add that I have guarded m3'self frniu condeuining JMoltke's 
cautious strategy on this occasion ; but it was not like that of 
Napoleon; it gave the French chancca ; and it was not free from 
danger, as the event proved. 

Page 145. The writer in the United Service Magazine con- 
temptuously rejects my statement that (Joiombey Nouilly or Borny 


was, " in fact, a drawn battle." I refer him to Major Adams' " Great 
Campaigns," p. 630, " Night fell on a drawn battle, in which both 
sides claim the victory." 

Page 155. I. The position of Napoleon, after Caldiero, was ex- 
tremely like that of Bazaine, after Mars La Tour ; but the move- 
ment by which Napoleon out-manoeuvred and defeated Alvinzi, 
at Areola, was far more difficult than that which, I contend, was 
open to Bazaine. The writer in the Broad Arrow, however, denies 
that the two cases were analogous (1) because Napoleon had only 
20,000 men, and Bazaine had 180,000; (2) because Napoleon was 
"inside Yerona" when he formed his plan, and therefoi-e had not 
to go through the town, as Bazaine would have had to go through 
Metz, in the sujjposed instance. I reply, that it was not a question 
of moving 180,000 men, but of about 125,000 — the force that fought 
at Gravelotte — and that Bazaine had, or might have had, relatively, 
nearly as ample means to transport this mass of troops across the 
Moselle as Napoleon had to transport his small army across the 
Adige ; and (2) that Napoleon had to go through Verona, as appears 
from the Commentaries, i. 254, ed. 1867. II. Mr. Archibald Forbes 
has argued, in The United Service Magazine, of February, 1894, that 
the operation, indicated for Bazaine, was impossible, or must have 
been frustrated by Moltke, and that General Hamley is in error in 
suggesting a movement of the kind. Mr. Forbes has, I think, 
shown, as I have always considered, that the march projected for 
the French by General Hamley may have approached the 
Moselle too much, and may not have been the best possible ; but 
General Hamley 's view is, I am convinced, essentially correct; and 
I altogether dissent from Mr. Forbes's main proposition. Let us see 
what Bazaine might have done, had he been, as I have assumed, a real 
chief. He might have made up his mind by midnight on August 16th ; 
and having concealed his purpose by demonstrations from his rear, 
he might have had his army assembled on the western bank of the 
Moselle, and around Metz, by the morning of the 17th. There were 
already perhaps six bridges on the Moselle (Riviere, 22) ; three or 
four more might have been thrown during the day, and there was a 
considerable number of boats available for the passage. In these 
circumstances the best part of the army, say 125,000 men, might 
have been transported to the eastern bank by the evening of the 
17th, and the necessary impedimenta need not have been very cum- 
brous. (See Riviere, 35.) The troops having been supplied with 
food and munitions for four days — this was often done by Napoleon 
— the whole army might have been out of Metz, and ready to march 
on the communications of the enemy, say by noon on the 18th. 
Demonstrations, meanwhile, might have been made to perplex the 
Germans, in contact with the French only through the First Army 
(Prussian Staff History, 2, 3); and Bazaine, had he been a general, 
might have easily reached the French Nied in the evening, and been 
on the Sarre by the 20th. What would have been the operations of 
Moltke and his lieutenants? 1 will grant to Mr. Forbes, what is 
very unlikely, that the chiefs of the 1st corps of the First Army, 
and of the 7th corps, might have apprised Moltke, at Pont a Mous- 
son, by the evening of the 18th, that Bazaine had got out of Metz, 
and was making to the south-east. But, even on this assumption, 
the best that can be made for the Germans, it would have been im- 
probable, in the very highest degree, that Bazaine would have been 


stopped on hie march, or that the German communications would 
have been saved. Moltke had all his arrangements made for an 
advance westwards, on the supposition that Bazaine was making for 
the Meuse ; the Second Army was far on its way in that direction, 
the Third Army was about to move from Nancy, and contact with 
the enemy had been almost lost. Under these conditions time 
would have been rt^quired to make an enormous change of front, 
and to direct the German armies, or any considerable part of them, 
on a course the very opposite to that marked out for them ; and 
Moltke, who took two days before he resolved to march against 
Macmahon, and who was repeatedly perplexed by sudden move- 
ments, would, and must, have paused for many hours before he had 
given orders to pursue Bazaine. The Germans could hardly have been 
on the track of the marshal before the evening of the 1 9th ; but by the 
time they had even approached him, Bazaine would have escaped, and 
his enemy's communications would have been seized and ravaged. Mr. 
Forbes ignores the enormous difficulties in the way of the Germans, 
and, above all, the decisive effect which surprise must have had in 
retarding their movements. He considers the whole subject, in a 
word, as though it were a game of chess, in which the pieces could 
be moved with perfect ease and knowledge. He is, also, quite wrong 
in saying that General Hamley is the only soldier who suggested 
the operation in question ; two generals in Bazaine's army did ; so 
did the Austrian staff ; so, I have reason to believe, did Chanzy ; so, 
1 know, did a most distinguished British general, now dead, who 
often discussed the question with myself. 

Page 162. The attack of Steinmetz seems to have been made, at 
first, in the usual company columns ; but these became so confused, 
that eye-witnesses have described them as close columns. The dis- 
tinction is immaterial for any practical purpose. 

Page 163. The defeat of the First Army at Gravelotte cannot be 
really questioned, and I, for one, never put faith in the myth that 
that army was sacrificed, in order to gain time for the tardy and 
doubtful outflanking movement, by which, owing to the incapacity 
of Bazaine, the French right was ultimately turned. To judge from 
a review of Major Kunz's book in The Times of February 8th, 
1894 — I cannot read the original, or procure a translation — German 
commentators condemn the German tactics at Gravelotte, and es- 
pecially those of Steinmetz, for the same reasons as I have done, 
but more severely. 

Page 165. A host of critics have thrown their shields around 
Moltke, like a Homeric hero, and have tided to challenge my ex- 
posure of his flagrant misstatements as to the numbers of the 
armies which fought at Gravelotte. They cannot deny that he has 
left out of the account part of the 1st corps of the First Army, and 
they do not venture to assert that the French — about 125,000 strong, 
according to the best authorities — were, as Moltke has written, 
"more than 180,000 engaged." But they say that I am in error in 
stating that Moltke left out the 2nd corps ; and they maintain that 
when Moltke declared that the German corps on the field were only 
seven, he meant eight. I think Moltke did leave out the 2nd corps, 
and did write seven deliberately ; the Prussian Staff History which, 
no doubt, Moltke had before him, 1, 438, refers to seven corps only, 
and the 2nd corps, making up the eight, is only referred to in an 


appendix, so far as concerns any enumeration. But, be this as it 
may, these critics admit that, on the supposition they make, Moltke 
must have omitted the cavalry on the field, nearly 25,000 strons^, 
and about equal to the 2nd corps in numbers ; these judicious eulo- 
gists lift him out of Scylla to throw him back into Charybdis. From 
whatever reason — I impute no motives — Moltke enormously under- 
rated the force of the Germans at Gravelotte, and enormously over- 
rated the force of the French ; after this, it is rather too much to 
expect rational people to swallow the figures of the Prussian Staff 
History of the War of 1870-1. 

Page 219. For the same reason that I cannot quote from Kunz, 
I cannot refer to Hoenig's work, on the second part of the War of 
1870-1. But if I may judge from the review in The Times, before 
cited, German critics at present do not aj^prove of Moltke's hasty ad- 
vance on Paris after Sedan, and are in accord with the conclusions 
I have formed on the subject. 

Page 220. The writer in the Pall Mall Gazette scoffs at my 
statement that the Empress " retired into Belgium " after Sedan. 
Her Majesty did so ; she despatched a telegraphic message, " filons 
en Belgique ; " and Riistow, 2, 187, says she did go to Belgium before 
coming to England. I probably know more of what was going on 
at the Tuileries in 1870 than this writer. 

Page 266. Hoenig, according to the review in The Times of 
February 9th, 189-1, fully confirms all that I have written as to the 
mistakes and false operations of Moltke before and after Coulmiers. 

Page 270. The Pall Mall G-azette critic mocks at me for ac- 
cepting, or nearly so, the figures of Major Adams as to the German 
loss at Coulmiers. I certainly reject those of the Prussian Staff, 
which in this, as in other instances, are absolutely false. As to the 
" buncombe " of D'Aurelle and the illustrious Chanzy, I pass by 

Page 287. I again refer to Tlie Times' review of February 9th, 
1894, for Hoanig's complete confirmation of my views as to the 
position of the belligerent armies around Orleans, in November, 
1870, and as to the faults committed by the German commanders, 
faults which Moltke would have rued, had Chanzy directed the Army 
of the Loire, and had not Gambetta unwisely meddled. Equally 
impartial German criticism should be applied to the first part of the 
War ; I believe it would bear out the conclusions I have arrived at : 
what is infinitely more important, it might, in some degree, explode 
the fetish worship of Moltke, so injurious to military thought in 




^1 i5nii liirri i^i i 


^<?Aavaaii^^ ^<?Aavaan-i^ 




c^ I , ,//v ;^ 

^<!fOJIlVD-JO^>' %il33WSO# "^/SajAINn ]«^ %0JnVD-JO'^ 







^TiiaDNV-SOl^ %a3AIN(l'3\\V^ 






'^imwm^^ ^ojiw^jo"^ ^ojitvjjo'^ "^honvsoi^ 


£ ^ 















^g ( < L ^ — %. 












^^tllBRARYOr^ >5^tllBRARYd?/v 

,5jrtEUNIVER% A>;lOSANCfl£ 

fie ^^aaaa^ K \ r— • ^ 

%mmi. 3 1158 0fl16 9330 


^^JIJDNVSOI^'^ "^^/^dBAINO 3V\V 







<fil3DNVS01^^ %a3AINn-3WV 





^,-^^ AA 000 987 123 7 


^^ojiivjjo'^ ^<i/ojnv3JO^ 







^<?Aav88iiii'^ ^<?Aavaain^ ^riijoNVSoi^ 







<ril30NVSO^^ %a3AINn-3V\V 


o ^ 






%a3AiNn-3WV^ *>&Aava8ii#' ^<?Aavaaii-^^ 





i 3 

S Si